Fresh from grabbing Francis Leung from BNP Paribas Peregrine to become its chairman for Asia with special responsibility for China, Salomon is about to announce it has also hired Margaret Ren.

Ren is the superbly connected former head of China for Bear Stearns. She will join in a senior role at Salomon, working alongside Leung, and will focus on winning big privatization mandates from China.

Ren is a well-known figure in Beijing and Shanghai circles, having pulled off some investment bank coups over the years, winning Bear Stearns mandates that few other bankers could, and doing so without the massive investment banking presences of rivals such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Charming and well connected û she is related to China's former Communist Party Secretary General, Zhao Ziyang û Ren has won mandates that included the $300 million IPO for Shandong Yangzhou and the $543 million IPO for Guangshen Railway.

More important still, she is close to China Mobile, having gained Bear Stearns a joint lead management role on its combined debt and equity offerings in 1999 and also getting Bear the financial advisor role on its offering last year, where it injected new mobile telephone assets from its parent.

Her hire will further boost Salomon's chances of winning top privatization mandates in China, a feat Salomon has not proved capable of since it pulled the 1999 privatization of CNOOC û a move that dented its reputation. (CNOOC was privatized instead earlier this year by CSFB and Merrill Lynch.) Nor was Salomon helped when its entire China investment banking team was poached by HSBC earlier this year.

At the time, Asian head of investment banking Sanjiv Misra promised to recruit some big names to reinvent the firm's China business. At the time he said: "China is a critically important business for us. It is a business we have not seen so much success in historically as in all our other businesses around Asia. We see this as a huge priority for the future. We've seen some staff turnover at senior levels and we are very focused on rebuilding that effort."

Misra has lived up to his promise. With Leung and Ren in place, the firm now has a China dream team capable of taking the firm into the top tier alongside Goldman, Morgan and Merrill.