July 21, 2013 5:21 pm

Evercore targets Asian dealmaking with new Singapore office

Evercore Partners, the US independent investment bank, is set to open an office in Singapore as it seeks to take advantage of growing opportunities in the merger advisory and capital-raising business across southeast Asia.

Evercore has poached Keith Magnus, former head of investment banking for Singapore and Malaysia at UBS, to head the business, which will officially launch when the office opens in October, the firm said.

The region is growing faster than many other parts of Asia and is home to a generation of entrepreneurs who are starting to expand their businesses beyond national borders, often through acquisitions.

Buoyant equity markets in the region have provided an attractive fundraising source for such businesses.

Bloomberg data show that the value of initial public offerings and additional share sales in southeast Asia more than tripled in the past decade to reach $20.6bn in the first half of the year, overtaking Hong Kong for the first time.

The Singapore office will be Evercore’s second in Asia, after Hong Kong, which opened three years ago.

Ralph Schlosstein, Evercore’s chief executive, said the company hoped to pick up work not only from private businesses wanting to go public through IPOs but from sovereign wealth funds such as Singapore’s Temasek and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation

“If you look at the pools of sovereign capital in the region they have been making consequential investments in Asia and southeast Asia and those are all markets where we would hope to be helpful,” he said in an interview.

In addition to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, Mr Schlosstein said Evercore would also be looking at the Philippines, which “has been a fairly active market more recently”.

Evercore is a relative newcomer to Asia, deriving about 10 per cent of group revenues from Asian clients, with some of that business booked through Evercore’s offices in the US and Europe.

However, it has picked up some high-profile work in the past two years, including advising insurer AIA on last year’s acquisition of ING’s former Malaysian insurance business.

It advised Charoen Pokphan Foods, the Thai food company, on a rival bid for US pork producer Smithfield Foods, after Shuanghui International of China tabled a $4.7bn offer.

Asian companies, especially those controlled by families, are generally less willing to pay fees for advisory work than companies outside Asia, making the business competitive for investment banks in the region.

“We have found that clients are increasingly prepared to pay fair fees for the highest quality advice,” Mr Schlosstein said.

“That has been a little less the case in Asia but we have a very successful business in Hong Kong, which is a pure advice model, and we expect to have similar success in Singapore.”

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