Rise in mergers, acquisitions signals Southeast Asia as new deal-making hub

By Rizza Sta. Ana

Dec 02, 2013 07:12 AM EST

Thomson Reuters data showed capital and mergers and acquisitions in the Southeast Asian region drove up to 9% in the last two years at USD46.5 billion. The data included mergers and acquisitions that had been announced but had not been finalized. Industry observers believed that this signaled the rising demand in deal makers, therefore driving their pay up.

Hong Kong-based managing director Russell Kopp at Correlate Search, an executive search firm said, "In Southeast Asia you have a miniscule pool. Everybody knows who they are, and there's probably only three people who could fill each of these very specific roles, so that drives up pay."

The drive in hiring bankers from small but active markets like the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia could mostly be attributed to the increasing decline in deal volume in Greater China, Reuters said. Thomson Reuters data also revealed that due to a decrease in deal volumes in the mainland, Southeast Asian deals had risen steadily, with 23% increase to an estimated USD1.6 billion in investment banking fees last year from 2009.

Case in point - a headhunter looking to hire an investment banker to work on a new deal would easily trek to Manila, which is home to Swiss bank UBS' Lauro Baja, who is considered to be a one-man deal factory, Reuters noted in its report. Baja's estimated USD3 million income makes him one of the highest-paid bankers in Asia, according to several recruitment consultants and one ex-UBS colleague.

Hiring managers and recruiters in the financial industry said recent investment banker hires out of Southeast Asia had put them on par with majority of the Wall Street bankers in terms of compensation packages. Southeast Asian bankers are now picking up not less than USD1 million in compensation, said a Reuters report.

A Singapore-based investment banker, whose company tried to hire Baja, said, "He's the 10,000 pound gorilla. We've tried to hirehim, but we can't afford him."

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