Better late than never?

A giant sculpture constructed with the faces of clocks is seen outside a Paris train station

Is now the time to be bulking up in M&A and other kinds of corporate finance advice?

On Monday, Societe Generale trumpeted the hire of a top French dealmaker from JPMorgan — the auspiciously named Thierry d’Argent — and reiterated its big plans for European M&A. Daiwa Securities SMBC agreed to buy mid-market corporate finance house Close Brothers Corporate Finance. Meanwhile Barclays Capital is making lots of equity markets hires, and says it aims to be one of the world’s top full-service investment banks.

As I wrote:

“A clutch of banks with previously limited reach in European takeovers and other corporate advisory work are betting now is a good time to grab market share — before the dealmaking business recovers.

“There are experienced bankers on the job market at bargain prices after the bloodletting of the financial crisis, while others who survived the culls are restless, recruiters say.

“Advisory businesses, like the one Japanese banks bought in Britain on Monday, offer institutions the prospect of lucrative fees and follow-on work without gobbling up precious capital. But the latecomers may find they are chasing a limited pool of deals, competing with both better-established rivals and with newly emboldened boutiques fresh from their own hiring sprees.”

The dealscape according to Stone Key Partners

dsc00328Two Wall Street veterans, former Bear Stearns investment bankers Denis Bovin and Michael Urfirer, officially launched Stone Key Partners today. The boutique investment banking firm, which has been operating under the radar for nearly a year, will focus on strategic advisory services, including M&A advice.

Stone Key, which has about a dozen people in all right now, plans to focus on technology, aerospace, defense, homeland security and information services. The firm made it to Thomson Reuters’ annual rankings for 2008 for advising on about $5.5 billion in M&A transactions. Bovin and Urfirer, who have worked together since 1994, have been involved in big deals such as Finmeccanica’s $5.2 billion acquisition of DRS Technologies, among others.

Bovin, 61, and Urfirer, 49, are co-chairmen and co-CEOs of Stone Key. Dealzone caught up with the two of them for a Q&A: