In this year's FinanceAsia fixed income research poll - published on this website last week - Merrill Lynch finished eighth. It also did so the year before. However, in the preceding four years, Merrill dominated the poll - in large part thanks to Chris Francis, who then relocated to London.

Now, as part of Merrill's overall re-evaluation of its Asian businesses, the once mighty fixed income research franchise has been pared back. In a major move made yesterday it has decided to scale back its Asian credit research team.

Team leader, Jason Carley (a managing director) will be relocated outside Asia, others will leave Asia too and Linda Bui will remain in Hong Kong alone covering investment grade corporates; as will Girish Kumar (in Singapore) covering convertibles (which most houses consider more of an equity product anyway).

It is a savage fall for Merrill which once ruled the Asian debt league tables and bestrided it like a Colossus. And just as it would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago that Merrill would run Japanese equities from Hong Kong, so too it would have been unthinkable that Merrill would pull back from Asian fixed income research.

The departure of a major US bulge bracket firm from this area leaves industry leader such as UBS Warburg in an even stronger position. For full results of this year's FinanceAsia fixed income research poll see the forthcoming November 15 issue of FinanceAsia Magazine.

In our 2001 fixed income research poll, Carley and his team did top the investment grade category, but finished eighth overall.