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Emerging MarketsEM Asia

AWOL investors and 26-hour conference calls

A lot has changed for capital markets bankers in Asia over the last 30 years — and not just their favourite bars. GlobalCapital Asia asks veteran bankers to wander down memory lane and pick their best, and worst, moments.

“In the past, roadshows were long, drawn-out events, and we also saw some reverse roadshows with investors coming to Asia. On one investor roadshow we did, it was a US investor’s first trip outside of the US. He turned up in Korea, couldn’t speak Korean, and didn’t have any money with him. He got into a bus to his hotel, but then he disappeared for about seven hours. We tried to find him but it was difficult as we didn’t have mobile phones then. It was the first time he’d set foot in a foreign country and he disappeared.” Senior debt banker 

“I remember a long night in the Mandarin hotel in London, where we were negotiating over 3bp-4bp with a Korean bank. We were sitting in the guy’s room, with him smoking cigarettes for over 10 hours. I had to buy the most expensive pack of cigarettes at the time to keep him happy — a £30 pack of cigarettes ordered through room service at 3am. Luckily, when those ran out, he agreed to our terms as he couldn’t stand the idea of negotiating without a cigarette in his hand.”

Senior debt banker 


“We had quite a difficult negotiation with a Korean borrower over a few basis points. To break the deadlock, we decided to go on the London Eye. We booked a private pod and took him and his team for the ride. Everything was okay in the beginning but as we got higher and higher, he got more and more queasy because he was afraid of heights. Pricing was agreed very quickly after that.” 

Senior debt banker 


“In 1997/98 when HSBC gave up the sponsorship of the Hong Kong Sevens, Peregrine, which is now long gone, picked up the sponsorship. It was going to be the Peregrine-Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens. But then Peregrine went bankrupt and Credit Suisse stepped in. I still have the rugby shirt from that year — it has the Peregrine logo on it, with the Credit Suisse logo actually just sewn over the top.

Senior debt banker 


“It was a lot more fun among the banks three or four years ago, as there was a lot more interaction and engagement, and we went out a lot. Captain’s Bar was our usual haunt. But now a lot of our communication has been cut down. We use chat boxes, so there’s less human interaction. The new generation of bankers have missed out on a lot of the fun in doing the analysis. Before, when we had 300 lines in the order book, we’d spend around two hours on the phone with the other syndicate guys going over the book line by line, and justifying allocations. Now, we do that on chat screens. It’s less time consuming but also less fun.” 

DCM head 


“December 20, 1999, stands out for me. It was when Macau was returned to China and it was my first trip to Beijing from New York. The reason I went to Beijing on that very cold day was because nobody believed that the oil price could go higher than $24 a barrel. I was in charge of an oil company’s IPO at the time. If you’re selling oil but you can’t convince people that oil could go higher than $24 a barrel, then you won’t be able to sell the deal. I was the only guy available to go as I was the most junior on the deal team. I was single, had no pets and I needed just a small suitcase, so I was sent to Beijing that day and spent a month there. The deal ultimately did not happen.” 

ECM banker 


“There was one 26-hour conference call where the deal actually ended up getting pulled. It was a Hong Kong corporate that completely misjudged market demand for their transaction and insisted on not finishing the conference call until they thought banks would buckle and accept their pricing. But at the end of the 26 hour period, the deal leaked away from them.” 

Senior debt banker 


“The loans market is special, because you have people who have been working in the same market for 30-odd years. Those bankers are pretty much born in the market and will die in the market.” 

Senior loans banker 


“The most different company I worked with was one that makes compounds that can alter your taste and smell. So they had a sugar compound that could make less sugar taste like more sugar, or less salt taste like more salt. Imagine selling such a company! But we did it.” 

ECM banker 


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