International lead arrangers: HSBC leads the pack

21 March 2003
HSBC tops the MEED league table of international banks active in the GCC project-related and asset-backed finance market. The result will come as little surprise to close followers of the region's deal flow. During 2002, HSBC dramatically stepped up its operations: it strengthened teams in both Dubai and London and reinforced its commitment to the region. As the league tables show, it not only had the largest total deal share - by a considerable margin - but also participated in eight deals, two more than any other bank. In fact, there were few mainstream regional deals in which HSBC did not participate. HSBC has risen to the top of the pile from seventh position last year. Clearly, the international bank that used to punch below its weight is now pulling its weight in the GCC.

Last year's leader, Barclays Capital, slipped only one place to second in the rankings, but the minor adjustment hides a significant change in approach. In the past, Barclays ran at the head of the pack in mainstream deals, such as Abu Dhabi's Shuweihat independent water and power project (IWPP). It led similar deals early last year - including the Ras Laffan IWPP - but also scored heavily in finance packages for Qatar Airways' fleet expansion and Oman's military helicopter purchase. Barclays was noticeable by its absence from deals such as the Oman LNG refinancing and Qatar's Oryx GTL.

Hot on Barclays' heels - and likely to be vying for a high position in next year's rankings - is BNP Paribas. Increasingly active in the financial advisory market and winning mandates throughout the Middle East, the French bank has gone from strength to strength. Only HSBC did more deals last year and BNP Paribas continues to be one of only a handful of international banks fully committed to the region.

The rankings tell two other significant stories. Citibank's fall - from second place to 11th - reflects a growing reluctance to deploy its balance sheet in the region, particularly when the tenor is greater than 10 years.

Equally, the rankings underline the renewed interest of Credit Agricole Indosuez in Gulf structured finance. An expanded team has doubled its deal flow and risen to fifth from 12th in the rankings. If the proposed merger with Credit Lyonnais - another bank with good pedigree and healthy deal flow - proceeds smoothly and brings no strategic shift, there is good reason to think that the new entity might become an even more dominant player.

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