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JPMorgan Leads in Underwriting, Citi Top on Fees

JPMorgan Chase reigned supreme across global debt and equity underwriting for the last quarter.

The commercial bank underwrote over $147 billion dollars globally, but fell behind Citigroup in terms of fees, according to ThomsonReuters data.

In a rare glimmer of positive news for beleaguered Citi -- in second place for debt and equity underwriting -- it was on top of Wall Street when it came to fees this quarter, pushing JPMorgan into third place behind Lehman Brothers Holdings.

Citi also came out on top of U.S. common stock underwriting, although Merrill Lynch topped U.S. initial public offerings and Lehman snagged the top spot for follow-on offerings over the first six months of the year.

On the debt side, JPMorgan was also in first position across U.S. debt classes, including securitizations, high yield and investment grade corporate debt and agencies.

Energy, power and utilities companies were the financial stalwarts of a lackluster quarter for capital markets and bankers expect this trend to continue.

While some companies, notably banks, came to the capital markets through necessity, the opportunistic capital raising from the energy and power sector was the story of the second quarter.

"Those two themes don't appear to us to be anywhere near abating," said Doug Baird, co-head of equity capital markets at Bank of America, which rose to fourth place in ThomsonReuters' U.S. initial public offering issuance table for the first half of the year, compared with eighth place for the first half of last year.

But more generally, the picture is a bleak one.

Across the debt and equity markets in the United States, both the numbers and sizes of the deals were down on the year before -- in some cases dramatically.

High-yield debt issuance was down 59 percent on the first half of 2007 and deal size was down 68 percent.

Investment grade issuance was also down close to 50 percent, although total deal size for the first half of the year -- at $4.8 billion -- fell only just short of the $5.25 billion this time last year.

IPOs, meanwhile, picked up somewhat on the first quarter, but with only 14 deals this quarter, activity is still at multi-year lows.

"I don't think the story's all bad, there's some silver lining to the cloud," said Dan Cummings, co-head of equity capital markets for the Americas at Merrill Lynch.

Baird noted the financial sector is likely to remain a key capital markets player in the second half of the year.

"There's more balance sheet repair work globally in the financial services sector that must continue to play out through the rest of the year," Baird said.

The question is whether activity will remain at this quarter's levels.

"We expect continued volatility in the second half of the year, with new issue volume very dependent on fundamental credit conditions," said John Cokinos, head of high yield capital markets at Bank of America, which rose to third place for debt underwriting for the first half of this year, compared with sixth place for the same period last year.

The plummeting stock market and widening credit spreads have dimmed investor appetite.

"I do think it impacts investor psychology," said Cummings.

"What we have seen is a lot of money emerge that was previously in cash or cash equivalents, or was invested in lower-yielding securities, has returned to equity securities." He noted that again, energy stocks, which in some cases are up 10 percent on the year so far, are the biggest draws.

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