Katherine Lau on Monday joined HSBC as a Hong Kong-based director for loan syndications, according to an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia. The memo was signed by Phil Lipton, HSBC’s head of loan syndications for Asia Pacific, to whom Lau will report.
Lau will be covering asset finance, a new role within the loans syndications team that includes real estate, aircraft and shipping financing but excludes project finance.
Lau was previously Barclays' head of loan syndication for Asia Pacific from July 2013 to June 2014 according to her Linkedin profile. In the past, she also worked at Goldman Sachs, where she was an executive director on the loans team in Hong Kong and at Deutsche Bank, where she was a director in leveraged finance.
“As a bank, we have ramped up our focus on real estate financing in Asia Pacific and Katherine's hire will be crucial to strengthen our originate and distribute model to support that business,” the memo said.
The real estate sector is a key component of Asia's syndicated loan markets. During the first half of 2015, several jumbo loans were made in the property sector, including Cheung Kong Property’s $7.1 billion financing and Henderson Land’s $2.3 billion refinancing loan.
According to Thomson Reuters data, infrastructure, project and real estate loans were the main drivers of China’s lending activity, representing 72% of the country's loan volumes. China was largest contributor to Asia Pacific ex-Japan loan market volume during the first half, accounting for $68 billion or nearly a third of the market.
However, lending to China's property sector comes with risks. HSBC was one of the lenders to troubled property developer Kaisa, which defaulted on its HK$400 million ($51 million) loan from HSBC late last year - the spark that ignited Kaisa's firestorm of debt.
Overall, syndicated loan volumes are down. According to Thomson Reuters' data, syndicated loan volume in Asia Pacific excluding Japan amounted to $214.1 billion during the first half of 2015, a drop of 15% from the same period in 2014.
The lack of lending activity was more apparent on a deal count basis, with only 608 transactions closing during the first six months of the year compared to 870 deals for the corresponding period. However, one loan banker said that 2014 was an unusually strong year for the loan markets.
The region’s lending has remained muted as markets such as Indonesia and India have stayed quiet, with infrastructure projects slow to take off.