Celebrating excellence

FinanceAsia Country Awards 2019 why they won, part 2

We are setting out the rationale for the choices made in our Country Awards for India, Indonesia, Laos, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines.

In May, FinanceAsia named the winners of its annual Country Awards. Today, we present the rationale for our decisions for India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines.

As ever, the competition was extremely tight, with numerous financial institutions proving their resilience in the face of volatile financial markets and a more strenuous regulatory environment.

This year, FinanceAsia also decided to establish an editorial advisory board to incorporate an element of peer review for the first time. So in addition to congratulating the winners, the editors would also like to thank the board members for their invaluable advice on the banks, brokers and law firms that were shortlisted and then selected.

Members of the editorial advisory board comprise:

Kalpana Desai – non-executive director at Janus Henderson; former chief executive Macquarie Capital Asia and head of Asia Pacific M&A at Bank of America Merrill Lynch 

Terry Mahony – deputy chairman VinaCapital; former CIO emerging markets TCW

Sanjiv Misra – chairman Apollo Global Management Asia Pacific Advisory Board; president Phoenix Advisers; former head of Asia Pacific investment banking and corporate banking Citi

David Morton – advisor Helsinki Foundation Asia Pacific; former Asia Pacific head of corporate, financials and multinationals banking HSBC

Winners of our Country Awards will be honoured at FinanceAsia's gala dinner in Hong Kong on June 27.

You can also find out more about our judging criteria for the domestic and international categories. 



When it comes to assets, HDFC remains sandwiched between State Bank of India (SBI) and ICICI Bank. But when it comes to profitability, India’s largest private sector bank continues to open up an ever-greater chasm between itself and its two public-sector rivals.

Last year was not a good one for a majority of the Indian financial sector. An existing corporate loans crisis within the public banking sector was compounded by a new crisis among non-banking financial services companies (NBFCs) after Mumbai-based Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) defaulted on its commercial paper in June.

But HDFC has sailed through the ensuing mess, maintaining an impressive growth trajectory and strong asset quality. It remains as worthy a winner of this award in 2019 as it has been in previous years.

HDFC’s proven ability to balance growth with adequate controls is one of the main reasons why investors continue to rate the bank in the face of an aggressive expansion strategy. For the bank is using its highly regarded digital platform as a springboard to accelerate customer acquisition and production penetration.

It recently launched a five-pillar programme to double branch level productivity, ramp up its presence in semi-urban and rural areas, extend its virtual relationship manager programme, enhance its payments leadership and accelerate digitisation.

As a result, it is set to open more than double the 300 branches it rolled out during the 2019 financial year. Over the next few years, it also plans to expand its virtual relationship managers from 5.7 million to 20 million.

When it comes to payments, HDFC Bank already accounts for 40% of physical swipes and 50% on payment gateways. And it intends to maintain this dominance by increasing its merchant platform from one million in financial year 2018-19 to four million by the end of the 2020-21.

Digitisation has enabled HDFC Bank to achieve a cost-of-risk (COR) ratio that other banks can only dream of. Since the 2014-15 financial year, this has dropped from 45.47% to 39.34%. The bank hopes to push it down further still to about 35% in the coming few years.


When it comes to investment banking prowess, few can touch Kotak.

It is an institution, which is as equally strong on the buy-side as it is on the sell-side, on the primary side as it is on the secondary side. Its win as Best Investment Bank and Best Broker sit naturally together, hand in glove.

As usual, Kotak’s ECM franchise ranked second to none during the review period. If anything, the difficult backdrop caused by a crisis among NBFCs only served to highlight the strength of its execution abilities.

Kotak led six of the eight initial public offerings (IPOs) that came to market during the awards period. It was lead left on three.

The star deal of the period and also the largest IPO was the Rs47.5 billion ($686.86 million) flotation of Embassy Office Parks REIT. Kotak and Karvy were the only two domestic banks acting as global coordinators for the country’s first IPO of a real estate investment trust.

The deal was significant on a number of fronts. It not only created a new asset class but also helped investors to get over their misgivings about equity yield products following the market’s difficult experience with infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs), which have performed very poorly in the secondary market.

By contrast, Embassy Office Parks REIT has had a nice pop in secondary market trading, rising roughly 17% over the first two months.

Kotak’s other standout equity deals include the largest qualified institutional placement (QIP) and largest block trade during the awards period – a Rs31.73 billion ($458.27 million) deal for property group DLF Ltd and a Rs72 billion ($1.04 billion) divestment of ING’s stake in its parent Kotak Bank, respectively.

On the M&A side, Kotak participated in 18 transactions with an aggregate value of $19 billion. This comprised three fairness opinions, seven sell-side mandates, four buy-side mandates and four tender offers/buybacks.

One particularly notable trend, which Kotak remains at the forefront of, is the growing activity from private equity investors on both the sell-side and buy-side. The first wave of private equity deals, which were struck in the early years of the decade, are now seeing sponsors exit for pastures new.

Typical in that respect is Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, which closed its first venture capital round in 2011. In 2018, Kotak was the company’s sell-side advisor for the Rs65 billion ($928.53 million) sale of a controlling stake to a new group of investors comprising WestBridge, AIF, RJ1 and Madison Capital.

Kotak bankers say the deal was particularly tricky given how many selling shareholders were involved at both the operating company and holding company levels.

Underpinning Kotak’s investment banking platform is its brokerage business. Like its close competitor Edelweiss, Kotak has a strong hold over both institutional investors and domestic professional investors keen to play in the mid-cap space. As a result, the bank has a separate 10-strong midcap team complementing its large-cap one.

The securities house also prides itself on bucking a trend to drown the market in buy recommendations. Throughout 2018, officials said that there was a pretty uniform split between Kotak’s buy and sell ratings. 


Axis Bank has been the recipient of this award for many years and remains the bank to beat on the DCM side.

AK Capital ensured this year that our decision went to the wire thanks to its pioneering work on a project bond that will fund the construction of Amaravati city in Andhra Pradesh using cash flows from future development. AK Capital also won the mandate to advise the government on setting up its first debt exchange-traded fund (ETF).

But at the end of the day, it was hard to argue against Axis Bank’s sheer strength across the board. It is a market fixture whatever the weather.

During FinanceAsia’s awards period, it had to navigate its clients through particularly stormy credit markets thanks to the IL&F crisis, which all but shut India’s domestic debt markets last summer. Bankers estimate this resulted in Indian corporate bond issuance dropping by about a fifth during 2018; a very sizeable drop considering the market’s growth in previous years has been in the 15%-to-20% range.

One of Axis Bank’s standout transactions was an Rs50 billion ($723 million) bond for Shriram Transport Finance Company, a deposit taking NBFC. It acted as lead left for the company, which was one of the first to try and diversify its funding sources by re-engaging with retail bond investors.

It picked a very good window to hit the market shortly before the NBFC crisis. And it retained its access, returning to the public bond markets again in October.

But it was only after bond yields settled at the beginning of this year that Axis brought its most innovative and complex deal of the awards period. In March, it executed a Rs63.7 billion ($921.8 million) five-year offering for India Infrastructure Trust.

That deal took almost nine months to structure to ensure it was tax efficient, could obtain a triple-A rating and appeal to a wide range of investors including mutual and pension funds. It was also the first deal of its kind involving an international sponsor, in this case Canada’s Brookfield.

Bankers hope the deal will provide a template for other issuers hoping to access India’s public bond markets.

BEST PRIVATE BANK: Edelweiss Private Wealth Management

This was a difficult award to judge because it once again pitted the newcomer, Edelweiss, against the institution that kick-started private banking in India – Kotak.

The latter still has a dominant share of assets under management (AUM) and, with it, the confidence to issue a series of aggressive sell recommendations in 2018. These, in turn, upset plenty of domestic product providers but helped its clients to withstand exceptionally volatile capital markets.

Edelweiss was only established nine years ago but its growth trajectory has been stunning since then, outpacing the country’s overall wealth creation. Its AUM doubled between 2016 and 2017, then rose by 50% between 2017 and 2018.

The last financial year recorded a less impressive 13.75% rise in AUM against a dismal markets background. But the group’s head of wealth management, Anshu Kapoor, believes it represents a short blip for the industry. He confidently told FinanceAsia that Edelweiss’s AUM could yet grow tenfold over the next decade, in line with a predicted doubling of dollar millionaires in the country.

Kapoor’s biggest problem is not so much acquiring new clients as engaging enough qualified relationship managers to serve them. One of the group’s big initiatives is consequently its in-house training.

Towards the end of the review period, Edelweiss announced that it had forged an agreement with Bank of Singapore to give clients access to each other’s product platforms. On paper, this looks like a perfect marriage given the close relationship between the two countries and the number of ethnic Indians who move from one to the other.

Edelweiss also points to its innovative product launches, which continue to provide clients with more options to diversify away from straight equities and debt. In 2018, this included a distressed asset fund and a pre-IPO fund, followed by a structured credit fund in 2019.

Almost half of Edelweiss clients fall into the bucket of entrepreneurs with an average age of around 50.

The group also has a very strong showing among professional investors and traders, who are also clients of its broking platform. Both the brokerage and private bank have forged a strong niche for Edelweiss, serving investors looking for opportunities away from the biggest stocks and obvious opportunities.


Citi remains as dominant as ever across the gamut of consumer and corporate businesses and deservedly remains FinanceAsia’s Best International Bank in India for another year.

The bank continues to lift its local headcount, adding more than a thousand people in 2018 to bring its total up to 17,100. This personnel growth should help the bank to expand its reach to more small and medium-sized enterprises, not just those with established international connections.

Citi India maintained a very strong balance sheet throughout the review period. Gross non-performing assets amounted to just 1.5% during 2018. It is also still the most profitable bank in India, reporting net income of $522 million during the financial year and a NIM of 5.7%.

Citi’s consumer banking has always been one of its key strengths. It has 2.1 million credit card clients and the highest credit-card issuance rate among all the country’s international banks.

It is also highly digitalised. In February, its app received about 51,000 monthly downloads, while overall average monthly mobile logins rose 27% during 2018. It also says that 42% of personal loans and 32% of credit cards were acquired digitally in 2018.

The bank’s strong position is supported by its low cost of funds. At 58.2%, it has the highest current account/savings account ratio (CASA) among the country’s international banks. During 2018, it also reported a CAR of 17%.

Citi is equally strong across its corporate and investment banking franchise. Benchmark ECM deals included the largest-ever IPO of an AMC (HDFC) and the first-ever InvIT private placement (L&T IDPL).

On the DCM side, there were a string of offshore borrowings in the first quarter of 2019 ahead of April’s general election. This has always been Citi’s strong suit and deals included a $1.25 billion offering for the State Bank of India and a $1.85 billion consent solicitation and $700 million new bond offering for REC.


It was a record year for M&A in India last year with announced transactions of $129 billion. The last year to come anywhere close to this was 2007, which saw $67 billion of announced deals.

This was reflected in FinanceAsia’s Annual Achievement Awards last December, when we made Walmart’s $16 billion acquisition of a 77% stake in Flipkart our Deal of the Year, M&A Deal of the Year and Best India Deal in 2018. Unsurprisingly, this was a very strong factor behind our decision to award Best Investment Bank to Goldman Sachs, which acted as Flipkart’s advisor.

It may have been the largest deal that Goldman acted on, but it was not the only one. For the US investment bank also advised Bharti Infratel on its $14.6 billion merger with Indus Towers. This represented the largest-ever transaction for tower companies in India.

Then there was Renew Power’s $1.5 billion acquisition of Ostro Energy in April last year, the largest transaction in the country’s renewable energy industry. Goldman acted for Renew Power.

In addition, Goldman Sachs advised Novelis, part of India’s Hindalco Industries, on its $2.6 billion acquisition of Aleris, which created the world’s largest aluminium company.

The bank was also strong on the ECM side. Notable deals included a $1.8 billion offering of American Depositary Shares by HDFC Bank in July 2018, as well as a $3.5 billion rights issue for Bharti Airtel and the groundbreaking $675 million Embassy REIT initial public offering.

Embassy REIT marked the first real estate investment trust to list in India and Goldman Sachs was a book-running lead manager for the deal.

One of Goldman’s great strengths is its balanced client list across the country’s big family enterprises and its emerging new companies. This means it keeps getting repeat business from the country’s top names. With the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalling business as usual, it plans to continue its strong streak into next year.  


BEST BANK: PT Bank Central Asia

Has there ever been a more perfectly formed bank than PT Bank Central Asia (BCA)? It has a strong track record winning this award and rightly so, given its unerring ability to continue growing without impinging on its asset quality.

Stock market investors have richly rewarded it too, pushing its valuation to one standard deviation above its 10-year average. In early June, BCA was trading at high forward price-to-book multiple of just under four times. Few regional banks can match this level.

During 2018, BCA grew its net profit by 11%, backed by 15% loan growth. Bank officials forecast loan growth of about 8% to 10% during the 2019 financial year.

One of the reasons why the bank does so well is because it can afford to devote more attention to liability management than securing new customers. It is one of the lucky banks whose loan book remains underpinned by strong capital ratios and low cost funding.

At the end of 2018, the bank’s CAR stood at 23.4%, with its gross non-performing loans ratio at 1.4%. Its current account/savings account (CASA) ratio, meanwhile, grew by 8.9% year-on-year to a very impressive 76.7%.

Officials at the bank believe the CASA ratio could grow a further 7% in 2019. 

As Indonesia’s largest private sector bank, BCA has been at the forefront of the sector’s digital revolution. It reported considerable progress during 2018, particularly in the second half of the year.

New initiatives include the introduction of QR codes and the launch of OneKlik services, which enable customers to make online shopping payments with one click. This ensures BCA does not lose market share to fintech players.

During 2018, mobile banking transactions increased by 66%. However, officials emphasise the need for a multi-pronged strategy in a country like Indonesia where demand for branch banking remains strong.

For example, while cash transactions at branches only accounted for only 2% of the total by number in 2018, they amounted to 54% by value.

As a result, the bank is continuing to roll out new branches, targeting about 15 to 20 per year. But it intends to keep its COR in check at around the 45% by making each one smaller and more efficient.


It may have been a terrible year for Indonesia’s equity and debt markets but that didn’t stop Mandiri Sekuritas from achieving a record profit after focusing its attention on the most lucrative trades and improving synergies with its parent.

Mandiri Sekuritas said it was able to lift its net income by 20% year-on-year, backed by transaction volumes of Rp206 trillion ($14.5 billion). And it had no rival this year for the award of Indonesia’s Best Investment Bank or Best Broker.

Its brokerage business has historically been the main driver of its profits and nothing changed in 2018. Bank officials say it contributed 44% of the total.

Mandiri also inched its market share higher to 5% from 4.8%, retaining the number one spot. About 55% of its volumes came from institutions. Some 43% of these were foreign.

One of the reasons it was able to maintain its leading position is because of its work on MUFG Bank’s three-stage acquisition of PT Bank Danamon. But it also worked hard to increase its retail penetration and says client numbers grew by about 20,000 over the course of the year to hit the 100,000 mark.

It attributes that growth to its digital strategy. Online trading hasn’t penetrated Indonesia as deeply as elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Mandiri, even so, reports that its online volumes closed the year at 60% of the total. It expects to achieve a 65% to 70% ratio by the end of 2019.

Mandiri is also well on its way to becoming a regional player after setting up a DCM operation in Singapore and applying to open an office in Hong Kong.

It first made its mark in the international bond markets in 2017 and consolidated it during the first half of 2018 before Indonesian dollar bond offerings ground to a halt during the second half.

Notable transactions during the awards period include a $500 million bond issue for PT Medco Energi (a long-standing client), a $750 million bond for PT Pertamina and a $2 billion 10- and 20-year deal for PLN. It also acted on two sovereign deals, raising a combined total of $5.2 billion.

Mandiri remains active player in the domestic bond market too, claiming credit for 39 deals totalling Rp15.9 trillion ($1.1 billion), but says it is not a key focus given how few fees it generates.

On the equities side, Mandiri came a close second to the winner below and was the only domestic global co-ordinator on the biggest IPO of the year, a Rp3.7 trillion ($140.17 million) deal for hospital operator PT Medikaloka Hermina in May 2018.

It was also one of the leads on the fourth-largest Indonesian IPO of the year: a Rp1.1 trillion ($72.43 million) offering for Pizza Hut franchisee, PT Sarimelati Kencana.

BEST ECM HOUSE: PT Indo Premier Sekuritas

Here is an institution that is starting to live up to its name and come into its own. Over the past few years, Indo Premier has been steadily making its way up the league tables and giving Indonesia’s more established securities houses a run for their money.

It prides itself on being independent. It is not state-owned and it is not tied to a bank or a conglomerate.

It initially forged a strong reputation in the bond markets. But what really stood out during 2018 was Indo Premier’s equities franchise.

It topped the Bloomberg league tables among domestic underwriters during the awards period. But what was more impressive was the way that Indo Premier managed to successfully navigate its clients through what turned out to be an immensely difficult year beset by volatility right across emerging markets.

No deal emphasises how well Indo Premier fared better than the IPO of Garudafood in October 2018.

On the surface, the deal raised just Rp45 billion ($2.95 million). How was that possible in a market with a minimum free-float requirement of 10%?

Fund managers say that Indo Premier did it by exploiting a regulatory loophole, which allows convertibles to classify as part of the free-float. As a result, a roughly Rp 1 trillion ($70 million) equity-linked deal was privately placed to a handful of institutional investors alongside the IPO.

This enabled Garudafood to satisfy its listing objectives at a time when markets were not conducive to a full public offering. It also meant that it would not have to re-file and put itself back through Indonesia’s lengthy four-to-five month IPO process, which make it difficult to time the market.

Indo Premier was one of the lead managers on the second-largest IPO of the year too. This comprised an Rp1.34 trillion ($95.2 million) offering for Bank BRIsyariah.

It represented the largest-ever Islamic bank IPO and has just about held its own in secondary market trading.

BEST PRIVATE BANK: Mandiri Wealth Management

It was a big year for Mandiri Wealth Management in 2018 after it signed a strategic partnership agreement with Switzerland’s Lombard Odier in April.

The deal helps to cement its status as the country’s premier domestic private bank and should also enable it to internationalise its product offering. Wealthy Indonesians’ desire for dollar-denominated assets has not diminished, despite the fact that billions were repatriated back to the country after the government’s 2016 tax amnesty.

Mandiri Wealth says that it wants to offer dollar-denominated products to its client base, particularly offshore ETFs.

Client numbers and funds under management (FUM) both continued growing last year, albeit at a slower pace than in 2017, rising 4.77% to 54,000 and by 1.5% to Rp195.56 trillion ($13.8 billion), respectively. The group, though, did do a better job improving its fee income as revenues rose to Rp3.684 trillion ($259.5 million).

Over the past few years, Mandiri Wealth has been making a big push to develop its higher-end private banking business in addition to its more mainstream wealth management.

Another strand of its tie-up with Lombard Odier, which has a similar relationship with KBank in Thailand, will be to help its clients plan successions and establish family offices.

At the end of 2018, the group had 18 private banking relationship managers handling more than 1,700 eligible customers.

BEST LAW FIRM: Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung

This is the first year that FinanceAsia has recognised a Best Law firm in Indonesia as part of a wider focus on the valuable but often under-publicised work the legal profession does across the region.

In Indonesia’s case, however, the idea of a domestic law firm can be a bit of a misnomer. The law does not allow international firms to own local ones so they have to set up fully integrated associations with them instead.

Our winner Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung (HBT) has been associated with Herbert Smith Freehills for 19 years, for instance. Over that time, the two have formed deep roots among corporate and state-owned entities, putting HBT at the forefront of nearly all the country’s benchmark transactions.

In many ways, 2018 was no different to other years. The law firm had a spread of the top deals across ECM, DCM and M&A. However, it is in M&A that it really stands out in what was an especially lumpy and volatile year for capital markets.

HBT’s most significant work was undoubtedly for Rio Tinto, which sold Indonesia’s largest mining operation, Grasberg, to a new government-owned mining holding company, Inalum. It was an enormously complex undertaking given that Rio Tinto’s stake was held through a contractual interest not covered by the country’s mining regulations.

The law firm also had to tread carefully to provide Rio Tinto with the legal certainties it wanted while juggling some delicate politics.

The group’s other big client was Temasek, or in this case Fullerton Financial Holdings, which sold its stake in PT Bank Danamon as part of MUFG Bank’s three-stage takeover.

Local partners say that another important prong to HBT’s strategy is facilitating inbound investment, particularly companies that can reach millions of Indonesians across the archipelago.

As such, it was happy to act for Chinese e-commerce companies JD.com and Alibaba during the awards period. In the former case, HBT acted as counsel for its investment in Go-Jek’s $2 billion F funding round. In the case of Alibaba, it helped it to invest in Tokopedia as part of a $1.1 billion Series G funding round.

On the equities side, HBT acted as the Indonesian counsel to the joint lead underwriters on the third-largest IPO of the year, an Rp1.16 trillion ($90.18 million) offering for sanitary ware company PT Surya Pertiwi. But its largest deal was an international one, after it acted as Indonesian counsel to the underwriters of a $1.55 billion depositary receipt deal for New York Stock Exchange-listed internet company, Sea Ltd.


Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) is our Best International Bank in Indonesia this year following its acquisition of a majority stake in Bank Danamon Indonesia.

The deal marks a new line in the sand as it is the first significant overseas purchase of an Indonesian bank after the introduction of certain restrictions on foreign bank ownership in 2012. As a result, MUFG looks set to benefit from Danamon's already-strong foothold in the country’s growing retail and small company loan segments.

It was a complex three-tranche acquisition that saw MUFG first acquire an initial 19.9% stake at the end of December 2017, an additional 20.1% announced at the end of January last year, and then a final tranche to take its final stake in Danamon to more than 73.8%.

Bank Danamon is a well-known name in Indonesia and the country’s eighth-largest bank by assets. Founded in 1956, it manages Rp182 trillion ($12.7 billion) in assets along with its subsidiaries Adira Finance and Adira Insurance.

As well as boasting a network of over 1,850 outlets including branches, subsidiary outlets and syariah units across 34 provinces, Danamon's reported Common Equity tier-1 capital ratio stands at 22.2%, which is among the highest amongst its peers.

But what tipped the award decisively in MUFG’s favour was its role providing finance to state-owned miner Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum) in November. This was a deal that came with a considerable amount of political scrutiny at a time when the government was introducing rules to give Jakarta greater control over the country’s mineral resources.

MUFG was one of the banks mandated on the $2.85 billion 18-month bridge loan that backed Inalum’s purchase of a controlling stake in Freeport Indonesia, the local unit of Freeport-McMoRan, which operates the Grasberg copper mine in the country’s Papua province. And with the nimbleness of a financial Fred Astaire, MUFG was also joint global coordinator and joint bookrunner on Inalum’s standout $4 billion debut offshore bond deal, which subsequently allowed it to cancel that loan.


For the fifth year in a row, Credit Suisse is FinanceAsia’s Best International Investment Bank in Indonesia. It remains the doyen of Indonesian investment banking with by far the most senior on-the-ground presence and the largest all-Indonesian investment banking team of its peers. And it is the top bank in all categories – ECM, M&A, as well as DCM and structured loans.

Credit Suisse has been a leading presence in Indonesian equity markets for the past 19 years. Since 2000, it has completed 220 public deals with a total value of $75 billion.

Last year it continued to dominate with the $91 million IPO of Surya Pertiwi, Indonesia’s leading distributor of sanitary wares and bathroom fittings, and the $143 million IPO of hospital group Medikaloka Hermina – both in May.

Both deals were popular with investors despite a testing market backdrop. Medikaloka Hermina’s IPO was not only the largest from the country last year, but was also 30 times oversubscribed on the second day of book-building.

“Credit Suisse’s team showed a strong understanding of the healthcare industry, taking the lead in the detailed financial modelling and preparing the investor presentations,” Aristo Setiawidjaja, managing director finance & strategic development at Medikaloka Hermina, said in a client testimonial.

Where Credit Suisse stood out last year was in its M&A work. The standout deal was MUFG Bank’s $5.9 billion acquisition of a 40% stake in Bank Danamon from Fullerton Financial Holdings – FinanceAsia’s Indonesian Deal of the Year. At the end of 2017, Fullerton Financial, a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek, agreed the sale of its entire 73.8% stake in Bank Danamon Indonesia to The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, the commercial banking arm of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). It was tricky multi-tranche deal that valued Danamon at $5.9 billion.

Closing in August last year, not only was it the largest ever Indonesian M&A, it was also the largest deal M&A deal in Southeast Asia’s banking sector – adding to Credit Suisse’s growing Indonesian trophy cabinet of deals. Indeed the group has advised on nine of the 10 largest-ever completed transactions ever in Indonesia.


BEST BANK: Halyk Bank

There was only ever one contender for this award and Halyk Bank’s dominance of the Kazakh banking sector was strengthened further during 2018 after it formally took over the country’s second-largest lender, Kazkommerts Bank.

The merger was finalised in July 2018 and leaves Halyk Bank holding about 40% of system assets, equivalent to $23.3 billion at the end of 2018. The takeover was driven by a desire to solve the country’s last NPL crisis and was resolved after a state fund took on a large chunk of Kazkommerts’s debt.

The combination gives Halyk Bank considerable economies of scale as it moves to the next stage of its development.

This is likely to include greater stock market liquidity after its majority shareholder, ALMEX Holdings, announced that it is examining options to sell down part of its 74.5% stake. ALMEX’s owners are the daughter and son-in-law of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stood down after three decades in power this March.

Financial analysts believe a divestment could spur a re-rating of the stock, which was trading at about 1.1 times forward book in early June.

The bank also recently unveiled five key objectives to see it through to the end of 2021. These include focusing on cross selling and product penetration, developing an agile business and operational model that fosters a culture of innovation, rolling out digital services, and improving the bank’s transactional reach. It also wants to selectively expand into other nearby markets, particularly Uzbekistan where it wants to become a top three player.

In terms of its financial metrics and efficiency ratios, the bank is targeting 10% loan growth, a net interest margin (NIM) above 5%, COR around 30%, return on equity (ROE) above 22% and CET1 ratio above 17% over the same period.

These metrics are in line with the bank’s 2018 annual results, which saw the bank’s costs come down from a COR of 36.97% in 2017 to 30.5%.  Some of the synergies created from the Kazkommerts merger included the closure of 80 branches.


This was a highly competitive award between Halyk Finance and Kazkommerts Securities. The two investment banks share the same parent after Halyk Bank took over Kazkommerts Bank in 2018, but they retain their separate brands and identities.

Each have strong DCM platforms but Halyk Finance is the winner this year because of its role as one of the lead managers on the IPO in November of the world’s largest uranium producer, Kazatomprom.

The $400.8 million flotation was a pacesetter for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it not only represented the first big IPO in a decade but also signalled the ambitions of the country’s newly established Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). Kazatomprom was dual listed in London and Astana last November, making it the first company to trade on the AFIC’s stock market, the Astana International Exchange (AIX).

The deal also established a new dual currency settlement mechanism that local banks realised they could also use for foreign-currency bonds. 

Transport and logistics company, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, took advantage of this when it executed a CHF170 million ($170 million) eurobond one month later. Halyk Finance was also a bookrunner on this five-year deal: the company’s second denominated in Swiss francs and the first to be dual-listed in Switzerland and on the AIX.

Halyk Finance was also a lead manager and consent solicitation agent for KazMunayGas’s complex liability management exercise, executed last April. This was also a landmark offering in a market where tender and consent solicitation offerings are rare.

It helped the national oil giant to extend its maturity profile, lower its interest costs and improve its debt-to-Ebitda covenants. The group invited investors to tender for $3.14 billion of its outstanding 2020, 2021, 2025 and 2043 bonds and issued $3.25 billion in seven, 12 and 30.5-year bonds.

The above deals made Halyk Finance the most active Kazakh investment bank in the international arena by some margin. But the group was also at the forefront of the domestic bond markets where it led deals for KazAgroFinance, SME financer, Damu and mortgage originator, Baspana, which executed a debut 13-month deal in October 2018.



The largest commercial bank in Laos was an obvious and worthy winner of FinanceAsia’s first banking award in the country. It was established after the country declared independence in 1975 and became the first company to list on the Lao Securities Exchange (LSX) in 2010.

It was this listing that gave management the confidence to begin installing modern IT systems and to create a digital platform. This has paid dividends in recent years by setting BCEL far ahead of the pack.

In 2017 it launched BCEL One, a mobile banking service that enables customers to transfer funds between accounts, pay utility bills and taxes. More recently, it has also introduced BCEL OnePay, a mobile phone app that allows clients to use QR codes for payments.

This has helped BCEL to boost assets from NK35.88 billion ($4.31 billion) in 2017 to NK38.99 billion ($4.55 billion) in 2018, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. Net profits have also risen from NK280.3 million ($34.06 million) to NK320.94 million ($34.06 million) over the same period.

And the bank has continued to grow while improving many of its efficiency metrics. Its COR ratio has improved from 49.61% in 2017 to 45.53% in 2018, for example.

Its return on average assets has also inched up to 0.86%, while its CAR has improved from 9.72% to a slightly healthier 11.12% over the same time period.


BEST BANK: Public Bank

Being famously prudent is an attribute that has stood Public Bank in good stead during a tumultuous few years for Malaysia. The award for Best Bank recognises Public Bank’s consistency in consistently maintaining superior cost and efficiency ratios compared with the rest of the industry.

It also acknowledges the role and achievements of Teh Hong Piow, who became chairman emeritus in January this year after 54 years at the bank he founded in 1965.

It is the end of an era. Many now wonder whether it will also precipitate a change in the shareholder roster given that Teh’s 23.4% stake cannot be inherited by anyone else under the grandfathering rules that allowed him to breach the regulator’s 10% individual shareholding ceiling.

But for the bank’s management team, it remains business as usual. They continue to send out the same clear message: there will be no compromise on asset quality.

As a result, Public Bank ended 2018 with industry-leading metrics. S&P Global Market Intelligence figures show that it recorded a return on average equity (ROAE) of 14.12%, a gross NPL ratio of 0.51% and COR of 32.94%.

Bank officials say they intend to maintain a ROE in the 13% to 14% bracket during 2019 and a COR around the 34% to 35% level. 

Public Bank also continues to retain a leading market position in retail lending including domestic mortgages (19.8% market share at the end of 2018), commercial property (35.2%) and passenger vehicles (28.5%).

And it has plugged into two key government initiatives that fit its own business profile, which aim to lift owner-occupancy levels among the country’s middle class and support small businesses.

There are its digital initiatives too. Public Bank plans to ramp up spending to RM600 million ($143.94 million) in the next three years from about RM450 million ($107.95 million) from the past three – and all while maintaining a prudent profile, the bank’s representatives say.

However, officials add that prudence remains the watchword here too. Next it is about to deploy APIs to build out its eco-system and has been working with partners such as Ant Financial and Tencent to develop cross-border solutions. 


It was a momentous year for Malaysia in 2018 after an opposition party (in the loosest sense of the word) gained power for the first time since the country won independence in 1957. And it was an equally momentous year for CIMB after its chairman, Nazir Razak, stood down in December, eight months after his brother Najib Razak left office as prime minister.

In his two decades at CIMB, Nazir helped to transform the bank into a regional powerhouse. His departure marks a new chapter but was flagged well in advance so has had no discernible impact on the bank’s investment banking platform.

During 2018, CIMB continued to put clear water between itself and domestic rivals because of its cross-border deal-making abilities and its balanced franchise across DCM, ECM and M&A.

The country’s political upheavals were most evident in the equity markets and pushed Malaysia out of the top-five by deal volumes even within Southeast Asia. However, CIMB was involved in three of the five largest deals during the awards period.

Its involvement in the first- and third-largest deals stood out on a number of fronts. Both offerings represented divestments in RHB Bank by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investment Co. 

The staggered sell-downs of Mubadala’s stake in Malaysia’s fourth-largest bank by assets were especially sensitive because of their tangled back history relating to 1MDB, the corruption scandal-plagued development fund tied to Najib and missing financier Jho Low.

The first RM609.9 million ($148.92 million) block trade also had to contend with difficult global equity markets. But its success paved the way for a second larger block this March, which netted RM1.04 billion ($255.25 million) and priced 7.5% higher than the first.

Where M&A is concerned, CIMB acted on two notable cross-border deals. It was the buy-side advisor for Dutch group Jacobs Douwe Egberts in its acquisition of beverage manufacturer OldTown Berhad.

The deal represented the first takeover offer in Malaysia where a pre-conditional offer was announced before a formal offer was extended. The compulsory acquisition was completed last May.

Then there was CVC Capital’s takeover of Munchy Foods: an all too rare instance of an international private equity firm making inroads in the country. CIMB was a financial advisor to the RM$1.1 billion (282.75 million) deal, which closed in June 2018.

But of all CIMB’s franchises, it is the DCM one that really underscores its regional expansion and prowess. CIMB’s regional footprint gives it an edge over domestic competitors such as Maybank and AmInvestment Bank, which have forged strong sukuk-driven businesses.

CIMB broke new ground in the sukuk sphere last year as well. It executed an RM$650 million ($155.93 million) perpetual Islamic note for IJM Land Berhad, which was the first perpetual by a non government-linked company (GLC) and the first ringgit-denominated perpetual sukuk enhanced by a corporate guarantee.

It was also the sole principal advisor on a $750 million sukuk wakala for Tenaga in November. This marked a significant new step forward thanks to the deal’s asset-efficient structure, utilising 100% non-physical assets in the form of rights to services for the first time.

CIMB’s desire to innovate was also on display when it acted for Genting in February this year, raising $775 million for its Indonesian power plant, PT Lestari Banten, through a rare project bond.

CIMB’s DCM and ECM franchises were also active in the equity-linked arena. Here the bank completed a $200 million exchangeable for medical gloves company, Top Glove: the first conventional exchangeable out of Malaysia in almost a decade.

When it comes to the private banking award, it is a straight race between CIMB and Maybank. Both have similar levels of AUM across the region. However, CIMB has a far higher concentration in Malaysia itself: $9.8 billion of its $14.1 billion-total.

CIMB officials say its sweet spot is its affluent category, with an AUM of $5 million upwards. This grouping accounts for 67% of the total. 

They also say that Malaysian clients have a more conservative investment mindset than others around the region. This results in a greater preference for vanilla products and an investments-to-assets ratio that closed 2018 at 25:75.


This was another close call but in the end we decided that Maybank had the edge in what was a transition year for CIMB after it sold half of its international stockbroking arm to China Galaxy Securities.

Following the sale in January 2018, CIMB will inject its domestic stockbroking operations into the new CGS-CIMB joint venture this July, with some business lines flowing back to the parent.

Maybank, meanwhile, continues to consolidate and build its broking operations to match the power of its overall position as Malaysia’s largest bank by assets. Its efforts were also rewarded by Bursa Malaysia last year, which named Maybank as the Best Institutional Broker in its annual awards.

The two institutions also teamed up to co-host the 15th Invest Malaysia forum, which took place this March. The country’s largest annual capital markets event showcased 63 domestic companies and attracted 1,000 regional and global fund managers, with a total AUM of $20.3 trillion.

The conference was particularly timely given just how much institutional money Malaysia hemorrhaged last year.

During 2018, foreign investors sold about RM11.6 billion ($2.78 billion) of cash equities, helping to push the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) down 5.9%. The overall market cap of listed firms on Bursa Malaysia dropped 10.8%, or by RM200 billion ($47.98 billion), according to Maybank figures.

Unsurprisingly, this left Maybank with a heavy weighting towards domestic investors in its broking volumes, resulting in an 89%/11% split.

Overall, Maybank’s biggest client pool remains retail though and this portion accounted for 51% of the total last year. And it has been pushing to increase its market share by launching a new mobile platform, Maybank Trade, in February 2018.

Officials say the app is now attracting around 55,000 active daily users and has just been launched in Singapore as well. It is based on ease-of-use, involving as few clicks as possible to execute a trade.


Unfazed by a tough economic environment, Standard Chartered Malaysia reported its highest earnings in six years last year thanks to solid growth in its small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) business. The lender’s pre-tax profit reached RM$743.6 million ($177.3 million) last year, representing a 54.7% jump on the previous year.

Given many international banks in Malaysia either reported a profit decline or barely maintained a similar level of profitability compared with 2017, it was a stunning achievement.

Standard Chartered Malaysia also improved a number of its key financial metrics.
Net provisions for credit losses, for example, were RM$1.4 million compared with RM$147.2 million in 2017, implying an overall improvement in asset quality.

Net interest income also grew 5.2% year-on-year while other operating income surged 12.9%. The bank was able to achieve this while keeping costs low – other operating expenses were similar to 2017 levels.

Its SME operations fared particularly well, reporting double-digit growth from the previous year.

Of particular note already this year is Astro Malaysia’s appointment of Standard Chartered as its in-house bank in February. The appointment enables Standard Chartered Malaysia to provide integrated banking solutions to the business units of the satellite TV operator including cash and foreign exchange management, funding and working capital.
In addition, Standard Chartered Malaysia was one of four lead arrangers for a RM2.15 billion debt financing for The Exchange TRX, a commercial and residential complex, Tun Razak Exchange, that will be the centrepiece of Kuala Lumpur’s new financial district.


In a year of subdued investment banking activity in Malaysia, Credit Suisse managed to pull off transactions across all the three main investment banking segments. They were also all from repeat clients, demonstrating the depth and longevity of the bank’s business in the country.

This made Credit Suisse an easy pick as FinanceAsia’s Best International Investment Bank in Malaysia, as it was last year as well.

The most complex (and lucrative) transaction was AirAsia’s $2.85 billion sale of its aircraft leasing business to BBAM. Credit Suisse, acting as a joint sell-side financial advisor to AirAsia, was able to strike a deal that valued the aircraft portfolio at 20% above its net asset value.

The sale of 84 aircraft and 14 engines was carried out as three separate transactions to three different investment platforms under BBAM. The Swiss investment bank oversaw a sale process that took more than two years and made a significant contribution to AirAsia’s asset-light strategy. It closed in November 2018.

In ECM, Credit Suisse was a joint bookrunner on Khazanah Nasional’s $87 million block sale of CIMB shares in December. This represented one of only two internationally-distributed equity deals during the review period, which came against a backdrop of domestic political upheaval and net foreign selling.

And in DCM, Credit Suisse was a joint bookrunner on RHB Bank’s $300 million bond. The five-year deal was the only conventional dollar-denominated bond from Malaysia during the awards period and achieved a strong order book that closed eight times oversubscribed.


BEST BANK: Khan Bank

It’s been another great year for Khan Bank, which lifts the award after being able to take advantage of Mongolia’s economic turnaround to increase its already dominant position within the banking sector. At the end of 2018 it accounted for 27.5% of system assets, up from 25.4% the year before.

This forms a very solid backdrop for the bank’s customer-centric strategic transformation plan, which was launched in 2012 and is about 30% of the way through, according to chief executive John Bell.

The lynchpin of the plan is how Khan Bank can create more value for existing customers, which is an understandable strategy in a country where the bank already reaches 80% of households and is, therefore, unlikely to gain too many more.

The commodities crash earlier this decade means that much of the rest of the Mongolian banking sector is still weighed down by corporate NPLs. Khan Bank’s retail focus means that it escaped the crunch.

And, according to S&P Global Market data, its gross NPL ratio fell to 5.74% in 2018 from 7.69% in 2017. The bank intends to keep it moving in the right direction.

It has also hired a chief risk officer to help it to adopt international best practices. Bell says this hire has given the bank confidence to lift its credit card acquisition rate. Khan Bank re-launched credit cards as a product in 2016 and took on 65,000 new customers in 2018.

But the most impressive growth was in the SME sector, a big focus for the bank going forward. Its loan portfolio in this segment grew by 175% year-on-year, enabling Khan Bank to expand its market share by five percentage points to an overall 22% share.

Khan Bank’s work in the SME sector underscores the developmental role it plays in a country where 40% of the population have agricultural jobs, many as nomadic herders. In 2018, for example, it financed Mongolia’s first-ever dairy cluster farm. This comprises 10 farms organised together in one facility to produce 1.2 million tons of milk per year.

The country’s dispersed population means that Khan Bank needs to continue adopting a multi-pronged approach to banking that involves branches, mobile banking and sim-based banking in areas with poor 3G or 4G coverage.

But it continues to encourage customers to turn to non-bank channels. It reports that 98% of transactions in Ulan Bator are now executed that way.

Khan Bank’s digital investment also means that it has a strong hold over retail payments, accounting for 76.2% of all ATM transactions, 41.2% of all e-banking and 82.5% of all mobile banking transactions in the Mongolian market.



It has been a tough few years in Myanmar, not just politically because of the Rohingya crisis, but also economically thanks to a shakeup in the way the banking sector lends money. The Central Bank of Myanmar has been forcing banks to shift from a model based on overdraft lending tied to fixed collateral to one based on term loans that also take cash flows into account.

Over the longer term, this should help to put the banking sector on a more stable footing. But over the short-term, it has negatively impacted bank profits.

This is one of the reasons why it has been a difficult year for the country’s largest private sector bank. KBZ was still able to grow assets from K9.88 billion ($7.22 billion) to K11.41 billion ($8.57 billion), according to S&P Global Market Intelligence figures.

However, many of its other metrics deteriorated and the bank clearly needs a cash infusion to bolster its CAR.

One source might yet come from a foreign bank. Earlier this year, the central bank allowed foreign lenders to take stakes of up to 35% in domestic lenders. KBZ has had a technology tie up with Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui since 2012, for example.

The bank’s standout area has been digital. It has devoted considerable financial resources to this area and in 2018 launched a mobile banking app, KBZPay.

The growth trajectory has been very strong. The app had one million customers at the end of the awards period and the bank sees this as just the beginning with a target of 30 million over the next 10 years.

In this respect, it hopes to follow a well-trodden frontier markets path of delivering financial inclusion in a country where there are plenty of smartphones but very few bank accounts.



It was another torrid year for Pakistan in 2018. The country’s new president, Imran Khan, tried to secure funding from allies but once again Pakistan found itself back in the arms of the IMF – for the 22nd time since gaining independence in 1947.

A balance of payments crisis meant the banking sector faced an incredibly volatile year too. In particular, banks had to rapidly adjust to an environment where policy rates spiked from 5.75% at the beginning of the year to 10% by the end.

FinanceAsia’s award winner managed the transition well by dumping its portfolio of long-duration policy investment bonds (PIBs) issued by the State Bank of Pakistan early on. So did runner up Allied Bank, which has increasingly been giving its private sector rival a run for its money since the government divested a final 11.5% stake back in 2014.

But it was MCB that retained its status as Pakistan’s most profitable bank in 2018, although not without seeing net profits fall 7.4% to PRs20.41 billion ($186.86 million), according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

A number of the bank’s financial metrics and efficiency ratios also declined. Its ROAE fell to 13.29% from 14.56% while its COR crept up to 54.92% from 49.53%.

However, the bank did improve its gross NPL ratio from 8.92% to 8.03% and its NIM also expanded from 3.58% to 3.61% over the course of the year. 

There were a number of key policy initiatives too. Following its takeover of NIB Bank in 2017, MCB carved out about 90 branches in 2018 and turned them Islamic, in the process doubling the size of its existing Islamic Bank.

Bank officials also say they are continuing to roll out new branches in a country where more than three-quarters of the population remain unbanked. Bricks and mortar is still important as low literacy rates have not fostered a good takeup of mobile banking.

Nevertheless, the bank reports growing mobile banking usage in urban areas and currently has 1.6 million mobile users. It has also signed up 62,000 merchants to launch QR codes.


The bank’s hold over this award grew stronger in 2018 given there were almost no equity deals to overshadow its traditional prowess in project finance.

Yet in many ways it was a transformative year for Habib Bank’s (HBL) investment banking operations. The election of a new government under Imran Khan last summer resulted in a different set of policy objectives. These are starting to radically change the bank’s project mix.

For a start, there is a marked shift away from dirty industries like coal towards renewable energy projects. Right at the end of FinanceAsia’s awards period, HBL was already starting to work on the financing for two new mandates encompassing a 100 MW solar project and 50 MW wind one.

There has also been a shift in currency mixes as well. After coming perilously close to running out of foreign exchange reserves last year, the central bank introduced a new “unwritten policy” that forces companies to part-finance projects in dollars if they have any dollar components such as machinery and parts, for example.

Bankers remark that this is the government’s way of shifting some of the repayment risk onto the country’s better-known banks. And one of the first projects to be caught by the regulatory change was HBL’s deal for Lucky Electric.

This comprises a 660 MW coal power plant with a total cost of $883 million and a $663 million debt component. It was originally conceived as 100% rupee-financed, but HBL ended up sourcing $190 million from China Development Bank, which it then lent on to Lucky.

The third big change concerns the government’s own borrowing policy. In March it conducted a beauty contest for an inaugural Panda bond. A total of four banks won the mandate: two from China (CICC and CDB), one international (Citi) and one from Pakistan (HBL).

The sovereign hopes to raise the equivalent of $1.3 billion, led by an initial $300 million deal.

BEST BROKER: Topline Securities

Topline Securities is one of a handful of brokers that consistently make a profit in a market where the vast majority do not. And it did so again in 2018 against a backdrop in which the KSE100 Index continued its precipitous slide.

The index started dropping almost immediately after MSCI upgraded Pakistan from frontier market to emerging market status in May 2017, losing 37% of its value in the space of two years. Experts believe the country only just swerved being downgraded back to frontier market status again when the index provider completed its most recent annual review this May.

Topline’s chief executive, Mohammed Sohail, describes industry conditions as extremely challenging thanks to a slowdown in broking volumes, capital markets activity and economic growth. However, the brokerage still managed to achieve a 32% net profit margin in 2018.

Its standout achievement was in broking the biggest trade of the year: in fact pretty much the only meaningful trade of the year. This comprised a series of divestments in Meezan Bank, one of Pakistan’s most highly regarded Islamic banks. 

The seller was Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investment, which sold a cumulative total of about $100 million to a group of largely US-based funds. Topline executed a series of off-market placements that started at the beginning of 2018 and finished in the middle of March this year.

During 2018, this helped the brokerage to achieve an 80%/20% split between institutional and retail investors. In turn, foreign investors accounted for 60% of the institutional total, including groups such as Franklin Templeton, JP Morgan and Exotix.


Standard Chartered is the oldest and largest international bank in Pakistan, with 93 branches in 11 cities, and it continues to play a crucial economic role. It also has no competition for this award.

In 2004, it was the first international bank in Pakistan to get an islamic banking license and it remains today the only foreign bank in Pakistan to offer Islamic banking products through its specialist division Standard Chartered Saadiq.

Standard Chartered has the country’s second-largest Islamic financing window and is the only Islamic bank in Pakistan with a credit card offering.

Standard Chartered’s pre-tax profit in Pakistan surged by 37% year-on-year to a record PRs18.5 billion ($130 million) in 2018, while its total deposits in the country rose by 13% to surpass the PRs400 billion mark for the first time. That is no small achievement against a tumultuous backdrop, which saw the country slide back into a balance of payments crisis.

During the review period, Standard Chartered helped to promote infrastructure opportunities in Pakistan to other countries too.

For example, in May 2018, the bank hosted a UK senior business delegation at its Karachi office to discuss the investment opportunities with chief executive Shazad Dada.

A month earlier, experts from Standard Chartered’s Greater China Region hosted roadshows in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan to outline the potential benefits and investment opportunities as a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and renminbi internationalisation.

Standard Chartered is the leader in international card spend with a 22% market share, the leader in international credit card spend with a 25% market share and the leader in international debit card spend with a 16% market share. Standard Chartered commands the highest spend per credit card in Pakistan at 2.3 times the average and the highest spend per debit card, at 4.6 times the average.

Having launched its first digital branch in Pakistan in 2015, its digital footprint now includes a digital branch and 197 ATMs on its online banking channels, as well as an app for mobile banking.

Standard Chartered plans to open more digital branches across key cities. The digital proportion of Standard Chartered’s transactions in the nation has soared to 75% in 2017 from 35% in 2011.

Standard Chartered has one of the biggest employee banking portfolios in the country, with more than 1,000 employee banking companies. Standard Chartered banks for more than half of the companies listed on the benchmark Pakistan Stock Exchange PSX-100 index.


Credit Suisse managed to close six deals totaling $1.1 billion during the review period from April 1, 2018 until March 31 2019. That was quite a feat in a market undergoing political and economic turmoil as foreign investors beat a retreat and the IMF was reluctantly welcomed back.

For this reason, the Swiss bank is easily FinanceAsia’s Best International Investment Bank in Pakistan this year and, arguably, one of the most remarkable success stories during the review period.

Pakistan’s elections in July 2018 were marred by violence before Imran Khan was elected the country’s new prime minister. Political uncertainty aside, investors were also concerned about the country’s twin deficits and Pakistan’s questionable ability to repay foreign liabilities over the short-to-medium term. They were increasingly anxious about the pressure on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves as a result of the $55 billion budget for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and payments associated with imports of Chinese machinery as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Investor sentiment towards Pakistan in general has been grim. And yet Credit Suisse secured mandates and closed transactions that had a material impact on Pakistan’s business and economic landscapes.

In one deal, Credit Suisse provided a large portion of a $565 million syndicated term loan facility for Pakistan’s ministry of finance, acting as lead advisor, joint mandated lead arranger and bookrunner. The transaction was closed close to the July elections.

Credit Suisse was also the sole mandated lead arranger and original lender for a $350 million unsecured term-loan to the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority, a government-owned power generation entity. This was the first corporate loan in Pakistan with partial guarantees from the International Development Association of the World Bank and the nation’s finance ministry. The second and final tranche of this loan was disbursed in June 2018, while the first tranche of $200 million was disbursed in June 2017.

In September 2018, Credit Suisse then acted as mandated lead arranger and bookrunner to arrange a $115 million unsecured financing facility, guaranteed by the ministry of finance, for Pakistan International Airlines, the national flag carrier.

In addition, Credit Suisse was the sole global coordinator, international lead manager and bookrunner on a $50 million transaction for Pakistan’s national oil company, Oil & Gas Development, as well as the sole originator for a $220 million syndicated term loan for the ministry of finance.



There is no change at the top of the bank award rankings in the Philippines, with BDO Unibank continuing to reign supreme. The country’s most profitable bank has a strong hold over this award.

It strengthened its grip in 2018 after posting record profits of P32.7 billion ($719.1 million) and breaching the P3 trillion mark in terms of assets ($57.62 billion).

Financial analysts expect the bank to sustain its earnings momentum in 2019, buoyed by strong net interest income.

During 2018, nearly all of the bank’s efficiency and financial metrics improved. Return on average assets (ROAA) edged up to 1.14% from 1.13%, ROAE rose to 10.63% from 10%, while its NIM expanded to 3.55% from 3.39%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. The bank’s gross NPL ratio, meanwhile, declined to 0.95% from 1.08%.

Basking in the light of its 70% CASA ratio, the bank enjoys the lowest cost of funding in the industry. It is also one of the chief beneficiaries of rising domestic interest rates.

BDO Unibank’s expansion is twofold and underpinned by the government’s imperative to improve financial inclusion. In other developing countries, fintech players are disintermediating banks. Not in the Philippines, where BDO is right at the forefront of bringing more people into the banking system.

At the end of 2018, its geographical reach spanned 1,307 branches, including 128 new branches, 56 of which were for rural bank subsidiary, One Network Bank (ONB).

This represents the largest branch network in the country and the bank plans to expand the number by a further 50 to 70 branches over the course of 2019. It is also designating local merchants as point-of-sale operators tied to BDO’s credit and debit cards.

A second key initiative covers micro enterprises and SMEs. This is being implemented by ONB, which set up 100 debut service centres last year. It plans to double the number this year.

Bank officials believe that even if SME lending ends up being just a small percentage of the overall loan book, it has the potential to move the dial on BDO’s ROAA figure much further.


BPI’s unbroken run winning this award continues this year thanks to its strengths across DCM, ECM and M&A.

This means it can cut its cloth to fit any market trend; it is at once balanced in its approach and yet nimble enough to react to changes in market conditions and to take advantage of new opportunities.

Banks that lift the investment banking crown tend to stand out because they’re at the forefront of new trends. In the Philippines, this means coming up with the good structures to finance the country’s infrastructure development and promoting green financing initiatives: an area where the country has led the rest of the region.

BPI was one of the mandated lead arrangers on the biggest project finance deal of 2018: the P24.2 billion ($468.5 million) financing of the Cavite to Laguna Expressway.

It was also lead arranger on the P10 billion financing of Apo Agua Infrastructure, the first large-scale bulk water supply project of its kind in the country.

BPI also has a strong commitment to sustainable financing initiatives and this was especially evident during the review period in its DCM franchise.

Here the most noteworthy deal was International Finance Corp’s (IFC) P4.8 billion ($92.94 million) green bond, also known as the Mabuhay bond after the Filipino greeting. The 15-year deal broke new ground not just because of its green hue but also because it was the supranational’s maiden capital markets issue in the Philippines after a number of years of trying.

When it came to ECM, BPI had absolutely no competition. It stood out in terms of the size, range and type of deals in what was otherwise a very slow year.

Rising US interest rates never spell good news for the Philippines because of its current account deficit and 2018 was no different.

As a result, there was only one IPO and BPI was lead manager for it alongside Maybank. This comprised a P8.15 billion ($155 billion) offering for property developer DM Wenceslao in June.

But BPI was also domestic lead for San Miguel Food & Beverage’s highly anticipated relisting. Market conditions meant the company netted significantly less than it had initially hoping for in October. The P39.19 billion ($634 million) offering, even so, still ranks as the country’s largest-ever public equity sale excluding rights offerings.

In addition, BPI led the second-largest deal of the year: a Ps50 billion ($965 million) rights offering for its own parent.

BPI has always had a strong M&A franchise and nowhere was this more obvious than the work it did for Ayala Corp’s education arm ACE Education. It was the driving force for the whole process by introducing the idea of a merger with iPeople and then convincing both sides.

The transaction valued the combined entity, which has 60,000 students, at P15.5 billion ($495 million).

BEST BROKER: Philippine Equity Partners

This is always a difficult category to judge given that the biggest brokers in the Philippines are foreign firms. However, the country’s second-largest independent securities firm enjoys the best of both worlds.

Philippine Equity Partners (PEP) is employee-owned and has had a co-branded research and trade execution agreement in place with Bank of America Merrill Lynch since 2001.

This set-up gives PEP’s research offering a firm institutional underpinning but also the freedom to publish more independent research than is often the case across the rest of the industry.

As a result, PEP tends to have a higher proportion of sell ratings – approximately 25% at the time the awards were being judged.

The securities house currently covers 42 listed stocks encompassing all of the MSCI Philippines Index, the PSEi Index and a handful of mid-caps.

Trade volume data from the Philippine Stock Exchange shows PEP had a 4.52% market share in 2018. This compares with the 7.42% market share of the biggest domestic player, COL Financial, which only targets retail investors and is second overall behind CLSA Philippines on 7.95%.

PEP officials say that the broker’s market share was boosted in 2018 thanks to its participation in two big deals: the P34.07 billion ($640 million) secondary share sale for San Miguel Food and Beverage in November and the P17.76 billion ($318.9 million) sale of Robinsons Retail Holdings to Dairy Farm in the same month.

Overall, PEP’s business is 97% institutional and 3% retail. The ratio of its domestic and foreign institutional investors is 53:37.

And 2019 is already shaping up to be more lucrative than 2018 after the equity market finally turned for the better in the middle of November last year. In the first five months of the year it rose 6.42% as foreign institutions turned net buyers once more.

BEST DCM HOUSE: China Bank Capital

This is the second year that China Bank Capital (CBC) has won the award for Best Bond House and it is a remarkable achievement for an investment bank that was only registered and licensed in 2015.

CBC not only tops the league tables for domestic houses but has also shown considerable flair and innovation. During the awards period, it executed a lucky 13 transactions raising P48.09 billion ($931 million).

That might seem like a relatively small amount within the wider Asian context, but the Philippines, like Indonesia, has always been a laggard in developing a vibrant domestic bond market. However, the size and scope of transactions is growing and P10 billion ($194 million) issue sizes are becoming more the norm.

From April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, CBC led six bond offerings that were bigger than P10 billion, the largest being a P20 billion ($388 million) offering for Petron Corp.

Its work also covered the whole gamut of issuers from the government (it was one of eight issue managers for its 22nd retail treasury bond issuance) to debut corporates like property developer, Ortigas & Co, which raised P5 billion ($97 million) under CBC’s sole lead management.

In terms of innovation, one distinctive offering was Ayala Land’s P10 billion issue from back in April 2018. This was the first deal to incorporate a re-pricing structure.

It was designed to keep issuers and investors happy in a rising interest rate environment. In particular, Ayala Land did not want to lock in longer-term funds at a time when it felt interest rates might be peaking.

So the deal was structured with a 10-year maturity but priced against a five-year benchmark, with the added kicker of a 75 basis point spread in year-five unless the bond is redeemed.

CBC was also active in the Reg S bond market, participating in two transactions: AC Energy’s $410 million issue in January 2019 and FPC Capital $175 million last May.


It is a good time to be a private banker in Asia and nowhere more so than in the Philippines where the industry eagerly awaits progress on the government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Programme (CTRP).

Analysts estimate that if the government introduces a tax amnesty, about $50 billion could flow back to the country. An obvious destination would be the country’s largest private bank and even 10% of the estimated amount would make a meaningful difference to BDO’s AUM.

AUM at BDO amounted to P400.95 billion ($7.7 billion) as of the end of 2018, up 1.7% on a year earlier. Repatriated funds would likely boost this figure well above $10 billion.

BDO is preparing for such an optimistic scenario by ramping up its foreign currency denominated product offerings. This also makes a lot of sense in a market where the domestic stock exchange is plagued by low liquidity and few new offerings.

The bank’s strategy is to white label funds by partnering with local and global asset managers. Bankers say that it had hardly any international partners three years ago but now has a whole roster that includes Blackrock, Pimco, Columbia Threadneedle, Invesco, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and JP Morgan.

Last year, it launched just under a dozen new funds after raising the equivalent of about $100 million offshore. It says it has changed the average currency mix of client funds from 65% pesos/35% dollars two years ago to a 60/40 split at the end of 2018.

BDO expects that ratio to hit 50:50 within the next two years.

Its client sweet spot currently falls in the $1 million to $5 million AUM bracket. Yet its fastest growing segment is the $500,000 level among younger millennials.

As of February 2019, BDO had a total of 8,171 clients with an average client AUM of P49 million ($946,949). 


Yet again Citi is our Best International Bank in the Philippines. Citi Philippines has had an exceptional year with double-digit revenue and profit growth. It remains the largest foreign bank in the Philippines by number of employees, customers, asset base and profitability. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

It was particularly strong in DCM, executing 10 debt deals worth an aggregate $1.83 billion. As it has done every year since 2010, Citi was bookrunner for the Republic of Philippines’s new $1.5 billion 3.75% 10-year bond, which was the first emerging markets sovereign issue out of the gates in 2019.

The bank also showed its international muscle in loan markets with two transactions denominated in British pounds and New Zealand dollars. It was the sole coordinating arranger, lender and facility agent for a £123 million ($160.8 million) senior unsecured five-year term loan facility for Marlow Foods, a UK-domiciled subsidiary of Monde Nissin; and in January it acted as lead arranger, bookrunner and underwriter as well as facility agent on International Container Terminal Services’s €260 million ($291.2 million) four-year syndicated loan facility,

Citi has a double-digit market share in most interbank asset classes and Citi Philippines remains a systemically important institution as the only foreign bank on the government’s Enhanced Government Securities Eligible Dealers List.

For 25 years, Citi has been the sole settlement bank of the Philippine Domestic Dollar Transfer System – for all US dollar real-time gross settlement transactions and US dollar netting transactions, as well as for the US dollar leg of all interbank foreign exchange transactions. It also remains the leading foreign bank in tax collections for the Philippines’ Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), processing 10% of its P2.04 trillion ($39.3 billion) last year.

Conscious of its leading position, Citi remains at the forefront of legislation and thought-leadership in the country. It is actively engaged with regulators and industry participants to enable payment digitisation in line with the central bank’s goal of 20% cashless payments by 2020. And it has demonstrated its commitment to the development of the country’s capital markets by hosting numerous events with senior policymakers and executives to discuss digitisation.


UBS remains the voice of reason in the Philippines, which is why it has deservedly been named Best International Investment Bank once again.

The Swiss bank completely dominated the country’s equity-capital-market league tables during the review period with almost double the deal value of its nearest rival. It was joint global coordinator on Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation’s $300 million rights issue and Double Dragon’s $80 million follow-on offering, sole global coordinator on Metrobank’s $1.2 billion rights issue, and sole bookrunner on Mitsubishi Corp’s $225 million secondary sell-down in Ayala Corp.

But the standout example on which it advised was October’s re-IPO for San Miguel F&B (SMFB) in November. It was the largest ever marketed secondary offering in the Philippines and the largest re-IPO ever by a food and beverage company in Southeast Asia.

Prior to this block trade, parent company San Miguel Corporation implemented an internal restructuring and consolidation of all its food and beverage businesses into San Miguel Pure Foods Company, before renaming it SMFB to create one of the best consumer proxies for investors in the Philippines. But a consequence of this consolidation was that SMFB’s public ownership fell below the 10% minimum requirement of the Philippine Stock Exchange -- hence the need for the re-IPO.

It wasn’t an easy deal to get away because of the challenging macro conditions across emerging markets at the time, as well as liquidity concerns. But the deal was right-sized to target the minimum public ownership requirement in the Philippines, and that did the trick.

The re-IPO gained strong support from top-quality investors, with participation from global and local long-only, hedge fund and private wealth investors. On the back of that the transaction was upsized to $733 million including an over-allotment option of up to $96 million.

“UBS has gained the trust and confidence forging a strong partnership with the group further underpinned by its support to the group that transcends across the years,” wrote SMFB chief financial officer Ildefonso Alindogan in a testimonial.

It was second-equal in the debt capital market rankings too. In this respect, its standout role was as joint bookrunner and lead manager of the $1.5 billion 10-year global bond offering for the Republic of the Philippines. Total orders for this deal exceeded $3.5 billion from 180 investors and final pricing implied a roughly 10bps new issue premium over the sovereign’s secondaries – one of the largest price revisions and smallest new issue premiums so far in 2019.

UBS was also joint bookrunner and lead manager on Security Bank Corp’s $300 million five year Reg-S senior notes offering and RCBC’s $150 million tap of existing 2023s.


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