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Asia's most pained bankers were in Singapore last year, not Hong Kong

Asian bankers are not doing okay. But Singapore's equity capital markets bankers are doing worst of all. 

Between Hong Kong and Singapore, there’s a lot to complain about – but the gripes are different. Hong Kong bankers are suffering as China’s good times dry up, but Singapore's equity capital markets bankers are suffering from a lack of local deals, particularly compared to pre-pandemic days.

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Equity Capital Markets (ECM) revenue in Singapore fell from a peak of $223m in 2021 to a relatively paltry $45m in 2023, a fall of nearly 80%, figures from market intelligence provider Dealogic show. Listings are increasingly shifting to local markets such as Indonesia, as well as the Middle East. 

Dealogic also provided numbers for investment banking performance in Hong Kong (including China) and Singapore, broken down by bank revenue in Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), Debt Capital Markets (DCM) and Equity Capital Markets (ECM).

Among Singapore's investment bankers, M&A professionals were most resilient in 2023. Their revenues were down a mere 21% on 2021's record, and were above the pre-pandemic days of 2018 and 2019. 

Hong Kong revenues were down too, albeit by less than Singapore in areas like ECM. Compared to 2018, Hong Kong's ECM revenues were in fact up in 2023.

Although bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore are both suffering, they suffer from different problems. Hong Kong’s fate is deeply tied to China, and the Chinese market – which has been suffering economically since the onset of the pandemic. 

In November, Bloomberg said Asian bankers were suffering from a surfeit of free time. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and UBS all made cuts in the region in 2023. Senior ECM bankers like Barclays' Kelvin Teo took the opportunity to retire. 

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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