Merrill Lynch veteran heads for Credit Suisse

Pankaj Kalra leaves DSP Merrill Lynch for its Swiss competitor, becoming the fourth senior investment banking hire by Credit Suisse in India in less than a month.
Credit Suisse continues to build its India investment banking team, having poached Pankaj Kalra from DSP Merrill Lynch as a managing director in the investment banking department.

Kalra will be based in Mumbai and will cover large market capitalisation clients in the energy, industrial and telecommunications sectors.

Kalra had been a director in the general industries group at DSP Merrill Lynch in Mumbai since July 2006. He was also previously with Merrill Lynch from 1994 until 2003, working at the US investment bankÆs offices in London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. He left Merrill Lynch in 2003 to join National Australia Bank and was with them until 2005.

In his new job he will report to Venkat Anantharaman, head of investment banking for Credit Suisse in India.

Credit Suisse has been relaunching a full suite of investment banking products in India in a phased manner since 2004. It appointed veteran Morgan Stanley banker Mihir Doshi as country head in January 2006 and subsequently got a merchant banking license and added equity broking and private banking businesses.

Doshi hired Anantharaman from Standard Chartered in September 2006 to head investment banking for the Swiss bank. Anantharaman was charged with building an investment banking team and he is adopting the strategy of bringing on board bankers with current experience in India. He is probably being helped by a market downturn which is making some bankers place bets on which firms will be long-term survivors in the market.

In August this year the firm poached Sughosh Moharikar from Kotak Mahindra, Samita Shah from Lehman Brothers and Ashim Ahuja from Deutsche Bank. Both Moharikar and Shah joined as managing directors, while Ahuja joined as an executive director.

Moharikar is responsible for mergers and acquisitions advisory activities in India, while Shah focuses on emerging large-cap client coverage. Ahuja will cover clients in the resources and infrastructure sectors.

ôWe are confident that [KalraÆs] arrival will be a catalyst for the growth of our energy investment banking business in India, where we see a substantial need for capital and strong interest in acquiring assets, particularly overseas,ö says Anantharaman.

Investment banking revenues in India have been affected by the global slowdown but less so than in some other markets; equity and debt market issuance has slowed amid the difficult market conditions, but outbound M&A has continued to be vibrant and some bankers are predicting that deals like the Daiichi takeover of Ranbaxy, where second or third generation family owners are selling out, could accelerate.

But competition in India continues to be intense with virtually every global investment bank now having an India office. Well-entrenched local franchises also offer strong competition. Credit Suisse now has four managing directors in India in investment banking, making it one of the teams with the highest senior level representation on the ground. Now what remains to be seen is how successful they are at bringing in the business.
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