DealZone

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.”

Lehman’s long march

Staff member displays Chinese yuan notes to media at currency exchange booth at Songshan airport in TaipeiAsia’s sovereign wealth funds may be loaded, but they don’t need long memories to recall the big losses they’ve suffered on seemingly sure-thing investments in Wall Street’s troubled banks. So with reports that Lehman Brothers came up empty in efforts to win funds from top Chinese brokerage CITIC Securities and state-owned Korea Development Bank, it’s anybody’s guess where it will come up with the cash it needs to deal with an expected $4 billion in writedowns before announcing results in September.  

The path most traveled heads further east, to Singapore and the gulf, where investors could be equally, if not more gun-shy given the news flow. A ray of hope could shine from Singapore though. State investment firm Temasek said it was prepared to plunk more money into Western banks. An Singapore sling couldn’t come at a better time. This morning, Citi’s Prashant Bhatia became the latest big bank analyst to warn on Lehman and fellow investment banks Goldman and Morgan Stanley, lowering third quarter estimates for all three, and The Wall Street Journal says the Fed had called Credit Suisse last month to see if it had pulled a credit line from Lehman, acting to prevent a repeat of the cascading speculation that helped sink Bear Stearns.

U.S. private equity investor Lone Star is buying the rump of lender IKB, Germany’s most prominent casualty of the subprime crisis. The sale by state bank KfW closes an embarrassing and costly chapter for Europe’s biggest economy. IKB nearly collapsed a year ago under the weight of $24 billion in investments linked to risky U.S. home loans, making it Europe’s first major victim of the global financial crisis. The government brokered the first of three rescues to avert what the country’s banking watchdog warned could trigger Germany’s biggest financial crisis since the 1930s depression. But as the cost of the rescues spiraled towards 10 billion euros ($14.8 billion), Berlin started looking for a buyer.