Morgan Stanley appoints new co-heads of Asia-Pacific ECM

Jerome Leleu takes a step up from his Southeast Asia ECM job and Mille Cheng returns from Barclays, while Justin Haik moves to a senior client coverage role. Alex Abagian is promoted to head of equity syndicate.

Morgan Stanley has appointed two new co-heads of equity capital markets for Asia-Pacific and a new head of equity syndicate, who will take over from current head Justin Haik, sources say.

One of the new co-heads for ECM is Jerome Leleu, who is currently head of equity origination for Southeast Asia, and the other is Mille Cheng, who is returning to Morgan Stanley after about two years as head of ECM for China at Barclays.

According to one source, Haik will be moving to a senior client coverage role and will no longer be responsible for the day-to-day management of the team and the daily dealings on the syndicate desk. However, he will continue to be involved in the big block trades that he is so well-known for, as well as other big ticket ECM deals, and he will also maintain his relationships with many of the firm’s big clients across the region.

Haik has been with Morgan Stanley for 15 years and has been running equity syndicate in Asia-Pacific for the past eight years. He became head of ECM in October 2011 when he was promoted together with Ronnie Potel, who was then head of equity-linked origination. Both bankers retained their existing jobs alongside their new co-head roles.

Less than a year later, in August 2012, Potel left the bank, leaving Haik as the sole head of ECM and equity syndicate in the region.

As Haik steps down from his day-to-day management roles, Alex Abagian will be promoted to head of equity syndicate. In reality he has been doing this job ever since Haik became head of ECM and got busy elsewhere, and now he will officially have the title as well.

During his career with Morgan Stanley, Haik, who is based in Hong Kong, has also worked in New York and Singapore.

The decision to have two co-heads running the ECM business in Asia-Pacific is in line with how Morgan Stanley has been approaching this vast market at the management level for years. It also has co-heads of global capital markets (GCM), which includes both equity and debt capital markets, and of investment banking.

And to have one China specialist and one person with experience and relationships in Southeast Asia run the ECM business together does make sense, as both these regions remain highly important for revenues.

The deal flow out of China may have slowed during the past year, but continues to account for a large part of the activity in the region. Cheng is being described as one of the best China bankers at her level in Asia, and will be able to bring that knowledge and skill to the overall running of the ECM team.

She left Morgan Stanley in the spring of 2011 and joined Barclays in July that year to head up its ECM coverage for China. The fact that she is returning to Morgan Stanley so soon is a bit of a blow to the UK-headquartered bank as it struggles to get a foothold in the ECM market in Asia. But an offer to head up Morgan Stanley’s ECM team in Asia-Pacific is one that would have been hard for Barclays to compete with — even if its pay packages are on the generous side.

Before she joined Barclays, Cheng was a director in Morgan Stanley’s ECM group with a key focus on China.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asia’s rise to prominence in 2012 is definitely not seen as a one-off and most banks have been adding resources to their teams covering Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand in particular.

Leleu, who is based in Singapore, has been running ECM for Southeast Asia at Morgan Stanley for the past couple of years and has overseen its involvement in recent high-profile deals such as the $1.3 billion re-IPO of Matahari Department Store in Indonesia and the $1.4 billion IPO of an infrastructure trust sponsored by BTS Group in Thailand, as well as the $3.1 billion IPO for Felda Global Ventures in Malaysia last year.

Leleu has been with Morgan Stanley for his entire investment banking career, having joined the firm in 1998. Before he transferred to Asia a couple of years ago, he was head of ECM for the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Cheng and Leleu will report to George Taylor and Crawford Jamieson, who are co-heads of GCM for Asia-Pacific.

Alex Abagian joined Morgan Stanley’s equity syndicate desk in Hong Kong in June last year, when he transferred from Sydney to fill the gap after Damien Brosnan, who left the firm to join UBS. The move became permanent later in the year.

He joined Morgan Stanley in 2001 and before his move to Hong Kong he was working on the equity syndicate desk in Australia. Morgan Stanley has an integrated syndicate desk for Asia-Pacific, however, so he had been working on some deals in Asia from his base in Sydney already.

The appointments and the re-hire of Cheng will strengthen Morgan Stanley's ECM team further. The bank has been slipping slightly in the ECM league tables for Asia ex-Japan in the past year. It is currently ranked fourth behind Goldman Sachs, UBS and J.P. Morgan, which is in line with its position in 2012 as a whole but below its top-two or three ranking in 2009 to 2011. However, it has moved up the table with regard to IPOs, from ninth place last year to fifth so far this year.

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