Margaret Ren joins Merrill Lynch

Ren named as a chairman of China investment banking.
In a move that is certain to create seismic tremors in the close-knit club of China dealmakers, Merrill Lynch has named Margaret Ren as a chairman of its China investment banking team.

RenÆs appointment went public over the weekend when a Hong Kong SFC announcement was published on its website that Ren had been given a license. Ren had previously been subject to an inquiry by US regulators over alleged wrongdoing relating to China LifeÆs $3.5 billion IPO. Her former employer û and one of the lead managers of that IPO û Citigroup had suspended her in June 2004, and she left the US bank shortly afterwards. However, in September last year, the American SEC formally cleared Ren, leading to speculation that she might soon return to the banking world.

Ren, who has 12 years of investment banking experience with Bear Stearns and Citigroup, is the daughter-in-law of former Chinese premier, Zhao Ziyang. She has long had a reputation as one of ChinaÆs better connected bankers and deal rainmakers. During the red chip euphoria of the late 1990s she was able to win IPO mandates for Bear Stearns even though the US firm had one of the smaller investment banking presences in the region. At Citi she became a vice-chairman of investment banking for Asia, and again helped secure the firm some major China mandates.

Merrill is reckoned to have been talking to Ren for over two years, with discussions accelerating after her exoneration. According to an internal announcement by Damian Chunilal, head of Pacific Rim investment banking, she is being brought in to strengthen the firmÆs China franchise, and will work as one of two chairmen of China investment banking alongside Wilson Feng.

Both Ren and Feng will report to Sheldon Trainor, the head of Asia investment banking, and Erh Fei Liu, the chairman of Merrill Lynch China region.

RenÆs role will see her focus on origination of investment banking deals from state-owned enterprises and the private sector. She will work with Merrill's existing five senior China bankers, and slot into a China team that at any given time numbers between 30-40 staff.

Erh Fei Liu, on the other hand, has shifted his focus in recent months to sourcing principal transactions and private equity investments for Merrill. He is also reckoned to be the individual spearheading any future efforts to create an investment banking joint venture in China.

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