Merrill Lynch is marketing its first collateralized debt obligation of asset-backed securities under new product chief Chris Ricciardi, according to structured finance market officials. They say the deal, a $325 million static pool offering on behalf of E*TRADE Global Asset Management, is one of the first signs that the poaching of Ricciardi is starting to pay off for Merrill, which has had little success underwriting CDOs. The firm placed 13th in the first-half, far behind first-place Credit Suisse First Boston, according to Thomson Financial. Ricciardi joined Merrill this spring from CSFB, where he had headed the CDO team that routinely topped the CDO league tables.
The deal is E*TRADE's second structured finance CDO; its first was priced about a year ago by CSFB, and one observer says the switch indicates the kind of clout Ricciardi brings to Merrill and his ability to lure new clients. Still, the observer says it is too early to tell whether Merrill will be a major CDO underwriter. Ricciardi was traveling and could not be reached. Erin Smaldino, an E*TRADE spokeswoman, and John Gallagher, a CSFB spokesman, declined to comment.
The CDO currently being shopped will issue notes backed by a pool of structured finance assets consisting predominantly of mortgage-related assets, according to officials familiar with the deal's structure.