Another Indian investment banking JV bites the dust

Indian portfolio management and brokerage firm, ASK Raymond James, becomes the latest joint venture to dissolve with the US partner choosing to exit the country.
US finance firm Raymond James is selling its 50% interest in its Indian financial services joint venture, ASK Raymond James, to its Indian partner, the ASK group. Details of the consideration have not been disclosed.

The joint venture was formed in 1994 when ASK Investment and Financial Consultants, promoted by brothers Asit and Sameer Koticha, came together with the US firm Raymond James Financial. ASK Investment was an equity research and investment advisory firm launched by the brothers in 1983. It was also an early mover into the portfolio management space.

ASK intends to continue in its existing businesses of institutional broking, portfolio management, investment banking and financial planning. It also plans to foray into real estate and mutual funds.

Asit Kotecha told press that Raymond James was a passive partner in the joint venture. A Raymond James representative corroborated this and said the US firm has no plans for a presence in India in the near future. Raymond James had announced last year that it was negotiating the sale of its stake in its India joint venture.

Investment banks operating in India are being forced to re-evaluate their strategies in order to better exploit the opportunities in the country. The troika of joint ventures, DSP Merrill Lynch, Kotak and JM Morgan Stanley, have all witnessed significant ownership changes in the last 18 months with each firm adopting a different strategy. Now it seems the action is percolating downwards to the smaller firms.

Subsequent to the buy-back, the Indian partners at ASK will continue to run the company, under the ASK name. Bharat Shah, managing partner and CEO of the company, is expected to acquire half of the Raymond James shareholding and the Koticha brothers the balance.

Shah joined ASK Raymond James in 2002 from Birla SunLife AMC where he spent eight years as chief investment officer. ShahÆs track record of successful investing in capital markets is widely considered a major factor in the growth of ASK Raymond James over the last few years.

With the boom in investment banking in India, an ongoing challenge for players is attracting and retaining quality talent. Boutique domestic firms like ASK Raymond James, Allegro Capital and Edelweiss Capital have been successful in bringing top-notch professionals on board by appealing to their entrepreneurial instinct and giving them an ownership interest in the business.

Whatever the format, bulge bracket or niche, it seems the action in this arena is set to continue.
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