TOKYO -- For banks looking to seize market share in the lucrative Asian equities business, all eyes are on China.
While the opportunities abound, getting into the market for Chinese stocks isn't easy. Neither is operating in that market when you get there.
Nevertheless, three banks with very little history as global stock underwriters are diving into the business across Asia and beyond, hoping to gain ground in places such as China and win corporate clients from retreating rivals.
Top Asia executives at Barclays (BARC.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Nomura Holdings (8604.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Standard Chartered (STAN.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) who spoke at the Reuters Japan Investment Summit here this week touched on their plans to build out an equities platform in Asia.
For Barclays and Nomura, part of that build-out will come from the purchase of the very same company: Lehman Brothers. After Lehman collapsed last year, Barclays bought the U.S. investment banking unit while Nomura bought the Asian, European and Middle East divisions.
"Now that we're into the equities business we need to figure out how to get into the securities business much more in China," said Robert Morrice, the Asia Pacific chairman and chief executive for Barclays. "That's a clear area we need to focus on."
Morrice said that acquiring Lehman's stock business in the United States has helped Barclays win clients in Asia, in particular Asian companies that want to list in the United States.
"It will take some time to see the value of the franchise start to come through," Morrice said.
All three banks have a long way to go, as neither has yet to crack anywhere near the top of Asia equity issuance rankings, according to Thomson Reuters data.
But they have struck some deals lately.
In June, Nomura won its first rights issue mandate in Europe this year, underwriting a 420 million Swiss franc ($390 million) deal for Swiss flavors and fragrance maker Givaudan (GIVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
"It's nice to be chosen by a swiss company when you have headquarters in Tokyo," Nomura COO Takumi Shibata told the Summit.
Nomura didn't start marketing its services in equity until January, he said. According to Shibata, having the Lehman Brothers platform has allowed Nomura to win equity mandates in Asia and other parts of the globe.
Nomura now covers 500 companies through its research department. The promise of research coverage plays a key role when a bank. To broaden its reach across Asia, Nomura is seeking a securities deal in China.
"You need to find the right partner," Shibata said. "We are always looking and I don't think we're going to be looking long."
The most important equities deal involving Standard Chartered was its purchase of Cazenove Asia late last year.
Patrick Gillot, Standard Chartered's Japan CEO, told the summit that a major driver of that deal was the access it allowed StanChart to the Chinese market.
"Cazenove gave us an equity arm, to help us be core to our clients," Gillot said. "To be core to your clients, you need to include some investment banking activities."
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