HSBC has made some changes to its leveraged and acquisition finance division in Asia-Pacific that will see Jeff Bennett step up to become head of the team. He will replace David Simons who has left the bank as part of a retrenchment, according to sources.
Compared with many other firms, HSBC's leveraged and acquisition finance team has, however, been relatively less affected by the job cuts across the leveraged finance industry, partly on account of the bank using a broader definition of the asset class, including not only private equity finance, but also corporate acquisition finance, bridge finance and infrastructure acquisition finance.
In a press release announcing Bennett's appointment, HSBC stressed its continuing commitment to its acquisition finance platform in Asia and added that the firm will continue its efforts to "extend and expand its capabilities in event-driven investment grade and non-investment grade financings, including corporate acquisition financings and refinancings, recapitalisations, restructurings, financial sponsor-led leveraged buyouts and bridge financing".
Bennett, who has more than 20 years of acquisition financing experience, joined HSBC as a managing director of leveraged and acquisition finance in London in May 2007 and transferred to Asia in October that same year. Prior to HSBC, he spent seven years at Morgan Stanley where he ended his time as a managing director in the acquisition finance group with responsibility for pan-European origination and execution of event-driven financings.
Bennett's product skills span all varieties of loans and bonds and according to Frank Slevin, HSBC's head of global banking in this region, he has also proven his ability to "bring together the pan-Asia resources of HSBC", making him well-suited for his new job.
Locally, Bennett will report to Slevin, while his functional reporting line is to Kevin Adeson, global head of leveraged and acquisition finance.
HSBC has been expanding this team quite aggressively over the past couple of years under the leadership of Simons, who was himself poached from Credit Suisse in March 2007 after eight years with the Swiss bank in Australia and Hong Kong. He was given a specific mandate to build up the business.
Aside from Bennett, other key hires during this period include Aaron Chow, who moved across from UBS in July 2008 to take up a position as head of event-driven syndicate, and in December 2007 the bank transferred Anthony Yap from London to become a vice-president of leveraged and acquisition finance for Asia-Pacific.
In May last year, HSBC also integrated its existing syndicated finance team into the leveraged and acquisition finance division to create a single loan underwriting platform under Simons, focusing on both corporate loans and event-driven finance.
Since Simons came on board, HSBC has provided financing for a series of notable transactions including the privatisation of Maxis Communications in Malaysia, Permira's $2.2 billion acquisition of Japanese agrochemicals company Arysta LifeSciences, and Tata Chemical's $1 billion acquisition of US-based General Chemical Industrial Products. It has also worked with private equity firm Bain Capital and Hong Kong telecom operator PCCW.
A spokesperson at HSBC declined to comment on why Simons has left the bank and Simons himself didn't return calls.