In a challenging but still record-breaking year for the region's equity markets, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter has excelled, both for the breadth of its range and narrowness of its focus. Strong franchises across the whole region have meant that when some markets are closed for business, the bank has been able look elsewhere to collect its fees. Likewise, the sheer length of time, dedication and single-mindedness it has brought to bear in some markets, notably China, have paid off spectacularly.
The bank has led two of the big three big China privatizations of the year and managed to do so successfully against a volatile global backdrop. Indeed, the colossal weight of the huge deals went some way to deadening the impact of volatile equity markets, with many fund managers required to pick the transactions up to meet their index weightings.
China Unicom, which came in June with $5.65 billion in stock, nevertheless had one of the smoothest passages through the primary markets of any transaction of 2000. Representing the Mainland's largest ever IPO, the offering benefited immensely from a strong and focused management team that managed to overturn many of investors' preconceptions. A short run of clear conditions also allowed indicative pricing to be pushed upwards.
Unicom was followed by a far tougher proposition, Sinopec. The company's $3.468 billion IPO was one that the Chinese government held particularly dear, since the petrochemicals sector has been the main spearhead of the country's economic restructuring programme. The effort that was necessary to get the company ready for market and capable of attaining an investment grade rating also underlines the huge manpower commitments investment banks are now having to make with the region's benchmark deals. With a staff of 1.2 million and 10,000 separate companies that needed to be integrated and consolidated, the task was immense.
Morgan Stanley also understood that success could be better guaranteed by anchoring the transaction with as many strategic investors as possible. It consequently secured a 50/50 split for the international placement between institutional investors and a group of four Hong Kong corporates and four strategic investors including three of the world's oil super majors.
While China dominated, Taiwan and the tech sector were not far behind, with TSMC and UMC both making their mark. The latter's $1.3 billion listing on the New York Stock Exchange via MSDW in September marked the largest ever initial US listing by an Asia corporate (ex-Japan) and the largest ever offering from Taiwan. It faced extremely testing market conditions that led the lead to adopt a cautious approach to syndicating a book that had still closed two times oversubscribed.
Two other MSDW deals of note this year ? Wipro and Globe Telecom - further highlighted the challenges of launching deals for good companies out of countries that are far from the top of investors' wish lists. This was especially true of Globe, whose $100 million PDR deal represents 23% of all new issue volume from the Philippines since January 1998. Virtually the only company from the Philippines capable of executing an international transaction, its deal was a hard struggle, but ultimately completed.
According to its own calculations, MSDW raised $11.7 billion for 12 issuers in seven countries over the course of 2000 This marks a significant pick-up over 1999 and for the bank's Asian ECM head, Colin Stewart, a strong platform to secure business in 2001. A former CEO of China International Capital Corp (CICC), Stewart is one of the region's most experienced bankers in the China market and has recently begun to build up a stronger and bigger ECM team in anticipation that the Mainland will dominate the primary markets next year in much the same way that it has this.