DealZone

R.I.P. Salomon Brothers

It’s official: Salomon Brothers has been completely picked apart.

Citigroup’s agreement to sell Phibro, its profitable but controversial commodity trading business, to Occidental Petroleum today puts the finishing touches on a slow erosion of a once-dominant bond trading and investment banking firm.

When Sandy Weill (pictured left) staged his 1998 coup – combining Citicorp and Travelers, Salomon Brothers was a strong albeit humbled investment banking and trading force. Yet little by little, a succession of financial crises, Wall Street fashion and regulatory intervention has whittled away at the once-dominant firm.

Not long after the Citigroup was formed, proprietary fixed income trading –  once the domain of John Meriwether, was shut down after the Asian debt crisis fueled losses that Weill could not stomach.

The Salomon name disappeared long ago as investment bankers and underwriters were rebranded Citigroup Global Markets.

Now Phibro, the former Philips Brothers that merged with Salomon in the early 1980s, is to be cast off because its energy traders made too much money when the rest of the bank suffered losses and required a $45 billion of taxpayer bailout.

Small things matter

Interesting detail in a research note on Thursday from Credit Suisse, highlighting how it pays for bankers to sweat the small stuff in these lean times.

The bank’s own research and Dealogic data shows that deals worth less than $100 million have generated average success fees equivalent to nearly 1.2 per cent of the value of the transaction this year. Deals worth $1 billion or more have yielded just 0.2 percent.

As I wrote earlier, Credit Suisse also says that M&A may replace fixed income as a driver of investment banking revenues in coming quarters as the high-grade bond bonanza draws to a close.