Thakur joins Merrill Lynch

A new head of debt origination begins work at Merrill Lynch to help expand its Indian debt franchise.
Avinash Thakur has begun work at Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong as director and head of South Asia debt origination. He was formerly director, head of debt capital markets for Southeast Asia and South Asia origination at Deutsche Bank in Singapore.

ôAvinash is an experienced DCM banker. He was one of the key players driving the DCM business in India at Deutsche, a sector in which the German bank was very successful last year,ö says a source at Merrill Lynch. ôHe brings execution expertise on Indian deals, and strong relationships from the region."

India was Deutsche BankÆs most active market for bonds last year, amounting to 40% of its league table credit managing, deals for ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, and Bank of Baroda. ôMerrill's business was pretty concentrated last year in terms of the clients it worked with, and the bank wants to broaden that.ö

Merrill Lynch handled deals in 2007 for just one Indian issuer, namely ICICI.

ôIndia is a growing market and despite some volatility in that sector, overseas expansion by Indian companies is going to continue,ö the source says. There are high hopes for corporate issuers, despite governmental limits on size, price of borrowing (no more than 250bp), and use of funds: "Regulations now are stifling due to concerns on capital inflow, but as this begins to slow we hope to see more liberalisation."

Thakur will report to Jon Pratt, managing director and head of debt capital markets Asia origination, and Jayanti Bajpai, managing director and head of India investment banking. He replaces Rakesh Singh, who left the bank last year to join Morgan Stanley.

Thakur's brief will be to oversee all domestic and offshore, private and public debt originated in South Asia. This includes loans, bonds, leverage finance, acquisition finance and structured lending. "As the debt market is getting more sophisticated, so is Merrill responding to meet that need. Thakur's move is about growing a prime business in order to compete with the key players in that sector," continues the source.

The move corroborates what a number of market commentators have observed: despite uncertainties regarding some of their businesses in the US and Europe, investment banks are strengthening teams in Asia to tap opportunities in strong growth sectors.
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