BEST INVESTMENT BANK
UBS remains the go-to investment bank for access to Australia’s capital markets and for financing solutions that use innovative structures for issuers. The bank ranks at the top of most league tables mainly due to its unwavering commitment to crafting transactions across a broad range of sizes, structures and sectors. FinanceAsia’s editors liked UBS’s 2019 role as financial advisor to Amcor on its $6.8 billion acquisition of Bemis, and its top-tier position in the equity capital markets where it controlled 26% of all issuance. The bank’s debt capital markets team also had a stellar year in both domestic and foreign currencies, pulling off neat US dollar offerings for Commonwealth Bank and Virgin Australia.
BEST INVESTMENT BANK — NEW ZEALAND
Deutsche Craigs’ local New Zealand team executed 13 transactions worth more than NZ$4 billion during the awards review period making it the best full-range investment bank in the country for 2019. Our judges were especially impressed with its role as sole financial advisor to Vodafone NZ in its NZ$3.4 billion sale to Infratil and Brookfield Asset Management which highlighted the bank’s connectivity and strength in executing large and complex cross-border transactions. Deutsche Craigs also acted as joint lead manager on the country’s only initial public offering of the year for Napier Port (NZ$234 million) and was sole underwriter on successful secondary equity transactions for high-growth tech stocks Pushpay and Serko.
ISSUER OF THE YEAR – CORPORATE
Woolworths broke new ground this year with the launch of its first green bond which saw it work alongside the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) to develop new low-carbon building criteria specifically for supermarkets – that can be applied globally to green bonds issued by food retailers. Before confirming allocations, the company asked investors to present their sustainability policies and those with true green credentials from Australia and Asia were given priority. The deal saw Woolworths become the first borrower globally to have lease assets certified by the CBI. This award has also been conferred for Woolworths’ massively successful A$1.7 billion share buyback in May, reinforcing its balance sheet and adding flexibility for growth.
ISSUER OF THE YEAR – FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
Macquarie Group is a seasoned visitor to the capital markets and 2019 was a year without exception. Macquarie executed two transactions that caught FinanceAsia’s eye including a A$905.5 million Tier 1 capital notes transaction in March which closed in under two days and priced at the bottom of the range (see our Best Hybrid Deal award). The second deal – launched in September – was a mega A$2.88 billion mortgage-backed securitisation under the PUMA name. The transaction was notable for being the largest ever Australian dollar transaction for a non-major bank and receiving strong support from 25 investors in Asia, Europe and Australia. The Class A tranche was 5.6 times oversubscribed.
ISSUER OF THE YEAR – SUSTAINABLE
With both lenders and companies keen to prove their ESG credentials, Sydney Airport worked closely with ANZ and BNP Paribas to structure Australia’s first syndicated sustainability loan in May this year. The A$1.4 million deal was championed by Sydney Airport group treasurer Michael Momdjian whose team worked hard to structure a deal that includes a pricing incentive for meeting ESG outcomes and a penalty for missing them – outcomes which will be assessed by independent monitoring firm Sustainalytics. The transaction provides a strong precedent for prospective issuers of sustainability loans and an indication of the healthy appetite from banks looking to grow their sustainable asset books.
BEST EQUITY HOUSE
UBS’s equity capital markets team managed more than twice the volume of transactions than its nearest competitor in 2019 making it hard to go past this bank as the Best Equity House in Australia. Some of its biggest deals were for long-term clients Scentre Group, Goodman and GPT. This glittering primary markets position is supported by a strong secondary market division which handles 16% of all shares traded on the local exchange and employs 40 research analysts who cover more than 200 stocks across a range of sectors. UBS pioneered a pro-rata structure for Transurban’s A$500 million placement in August to support proportionate participation for existing shareholders – a structure that was used later in the year by Westpac.
BEST M&A HOUSE
In a year characterised by mega cross-border deals, Goldman Sachs advised IFM Global Infrastructure Fund on its $10 billion acquisition of Buckeye, and Bemis on its $7 billion purchase by Amcor. These landmark transactions were only two of a total of 24 deals on the firm’s list of announced deals for 2019, demonstrating an impressive capacity to offer advice across sectors and countries. Goldman Sachs’ strength in M&A is to focus on synergies, increase a company’s profitable exposure and create global industry leaders. The Bemis deal was the largest outbound scrip-only acquisition by an Australian company in more than 15 years and involved an innovative redomicile of Amcor to be a NYSE-listed company with ASX-listed CDIs.
BEST LOCAL BOND HOUSE
National Australia Bank
National Australia Bank continued to parade its local bond origination credentials in 2019 leading a slew of successful deals for first-time and veteran issuers including a long-dated Tier 2 deal for IAG in March, a well-priced 10-year print for energy company AusNet in July, and an award-winning BBB-rated deal for Pacific National in September (see our Best Local Bond Deal award). National Australia Bank has been the only domestic bank to be on every local covered bond issued since July 2017. It has also played a leading role in developing the ESG bond markets, helping QIC Shopping Centre Fund raise A$300 million via a green bond and NSW Treasury Corp on its first sustainability bond worth A$1.8 billion.
BEST INTERNATIONAL BOND HOUSE
Reclaiming the title of Best International Bond House in 2019, Citi was an arranger on almost all of the transactions nominated for FinanceAsia’s award for best international bond deal. Citi remains the clear market leader in taking domestic financial institutions to the US dollar markets. It raised $12.2 billion in debt for these clients during the review period including a $2.5 billion covered and senior bond for National Australia Bank in September. It has a particular aptitude for structuring and distributing Tier 2 notes for banking clients. In the corporate arena, Citi executed highly successful long-dated 10-year and 15-year US dollar and euro deals for Woodside and Santos, and euro EMTNs for Transurban, Optus and Origin Energy.
BEST DEBT FINANCE HOUSE
ANZ’s ability to structure deals that provide clients with flexibility to achieve their strategic goals is why it is our 2019 winner of the Best Debt Finance House award. The bank uses its balance sheet to drive liquidity for its debt customers and generates demand for transactions via its network of relationships with investors in Europe, China, Japan, Singapore and the rest of Asia. Two syndicated debt facilities for Viva Energy and Qantas achieved around 80% distribution to offshore accounts during the review period. The bank acted as sole underwriter on financings for property sector borrowers NorthWest Properties REIT, Saint Moritz and Iris Capital, demonstrating its provision of funding certainty.
BEST SUSTAINABLE FINANCE HOUSE
ANZ wants to be the brand every issuer identifies when they think of sustainable finance and its 2019 transaction list suggests it is making great strides towards achieving this goal. The year saw it branch away from straight green bonds to develop sustainability bonds, social bonds and sustainability linked loans. Each deal it executes involves close collaboration with clients to set issuer-specific carbon reduction targets and then articulating these targets to investors. FinanceAsia’s judges liked the bank’s work on several key transactions including Woolworths’ A$400 million green bond, New South Wales Treasury Corporation’s A$1.8 billion sustainability bond, a sustainability linked loan for Sydney Airport and its own euro-denominated €1 billion sustainability Tier 2 issue in November.