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Asia-Pacific ECM shrinks again in 2013, rebound seen next year

Elzio Barreto
Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 | 8:00 PM ET

* Asia Pacific ECM down 5 pct in 2013 to $163.9 bln

* Initial public offerings rise 2.3 percent in 2013

* UBS tops league tables, followed by Goldman, Credit Suisse

* Rebound seen in 2014 on China IPOs, large deals in HK, Malaysia

HONG KONG, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Equity capital markets in the Asia-Pacific ex-Japan region shrank for a third consecutive year in 2013, hurt by a downturn in India and slower activity in mainland China.

The overall decline contrasts with a rebound in IPO issuance that is stoking optimism for a boom in 2014 as China resumes new listings after a one-year hiatus and markets from Hong Kong to Malaysia get multi-billion dollar deals.

The pickup in initial public offering activity is key for investment banks in the region as new listings carry much higher fees than follow-ons, block deals or convertible bonds. After a round of layoffs and bonus cuts, when some banks even exited the region, the IPO revival would give a much-needed boost to bank revenue.

UBS, which has come out on top of Asia-Pacific equity capital market league tables for eight of the past nine years, raked in $220.9 million in estimated fees, buoyed by its strong presence in Southeast Asia.

"This year's ECM activity was healthier in part because of product breadth and specifically because market appetite for IPOs came back for longer and in a more consistent fashion than it has in years," said Damien Brosnan, head of Asia ex-Japan equity syndicate at UBS.

The Swiss bank worked on $18.4 billion worth of deals, ahead of Goldman Sachs, which managed $16.2 billion, and Credit Suisse with $7.4 billion.

Goldman Sachs ranked second in ECM fees, earning $173.8 million, followed by JPMorgan with $150.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters/Freeman Consulting Co estimates.

Equity issuance in the region fell 5 percent to $163.9 billion, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters data through Dec. 17.

Proceeds from initial public offerings however, rose 2.3 percent to $40.6 billion as a surge in new listings in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong helped offset weaker markets in Malaysia and South Korea and the absence of deals in mainland China.

Bankers and analysts expect a bumper year in 2014, with large offerings in Hong Kong putting the city at center stage for IPOs again.

Some of the top deals expected include a $5.7 billion IPO for the electricity business of Li Ka-shing's Power Assets Holdings Ltd, a $6 billion deal from Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings and listings from health and beauty products retailer A.S. Watson & Co Ltd and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The resumption of IPOs in Shanghai and Shenzhen next month should provide a much needed boost to deal volumes in the region, after zero activity for more than one year in China. The first batch of about 50 companies to list in China in January alone should bring in 44 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) in proceeds.

Advisory firm EY forecasts some $23.2 billion worth of IPOs in Hong Kong next year, with some 200 billion yuan ($32.9 billion) of new listings in China, the two main markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

"People have been scared about the QE3 retreat, interest rates, the fiscal cliff, and for next year you can see there are not that many topics that will make people so scared," said Ringo Choi, Asia Pacific IPO leader at EY in Hong Kong, in reference to the quantitative easing (QE) program in the United States.

"In the first quarter when they reopen, there will be a boom," EY's Choi said about China's market, adding that businesses related to domestic consumption would stand out.

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