The Deal: Evercore Opens Singapore Office

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NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Evercore Partners is positioning itself to take a larger slice of the Asian deal market with the opening of a Singapore office that will provide M&A, capital markets and strategic advice to companies throughout Southeast Asia.

The U.S.-based investment bank has hired Keith Magnus to lead its Singaporean arm from UBS, where he is currently the chairman and head of Singapore and Malaysia investment banking. Singapore will be Evercore's second Asian office after Hong Kong.

"Once established, our office in Singapore combined with our office in Hong Kong and our strategic alliances in China, Japan, India and Korea will allow us to better serve both our Asian clients and global clients with interest in Asia," Evercore's president and chief executive Ralph Schlosstein said in a statement.

Asian economies are growing at much faster rates than the U.S. and the recession-crippled Europe. Singapore's economy grew an annualized 15.2% in the second quarter as manufacturing rebounded, the strongest result in more than two years.

Yet Asian companies--such as Japanese dealmakers, the largest foreign acquirers of U.S. targets--are less likely to pay for advisory work, preferring to do more of the groundwork themselves, spelling a competitive backdrop for investment banks.

Only about 10% of Evercore's overall revenue comes from Asian clients, though it has advised on transactions such as insurer AIA Group Ltd.'s $1.73 billion acquisition of ING Groep NV's Malaysian insurance business last year and Thai food group Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL's rival bid for U.S. company Smithfield Foods , which agreed in May to be acquired by Shuanghui International Holdings for $7.1 billion.

Sovereign wealth funds such as Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Government of Singapore Investment Corp. are large active investors throughout the region--and another potential source of advisory work. M&A in Southeast Asia fell 13% in volume terms to 889 deals in the first half on the prior period, though overall deal value rose 8% to $36.5 billion, according to Dealogic. This compares to a 20% drop in volumes for U.S. M&A to 4873 in the first half and a 23% jump in overall deal value to $521.8 billion, as fewer but larger deals were announced. Magnus has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS and Deutsche Bank , advising on public deals in excess of S$40 billion ($32 billion) in M&A and capital raisings for financial institutions, corporates and several Temasek-linked entities, according to Evercore.

The independent investment bank will report its second-quarter results on Wednesday.

Written by Jane Searle.