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UBS Thai banker joins Deutsche amid talent war

SINGAPORE: Deutsche Bank has hired UBS’s veteran head of investment banking in Thailand, Phumchai Kambhato, as the search for well-connected bankers intensifies in Southeast Asia where deals have soared on the back of rapid economic growth.

Phumchai’s departure is the second high-profile loss for UBS in the region this year. The head of its Singapore and Malaysia investment banking business, Keith Magnus, is joining US investment bank Evercore Partners in October.

For Deutsche Bank, Phumchai is the third major addition to its Southeast Asia investment banking operations in 2013 as the bank takes on more established players including Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Investment banks are widening their talent hunt as Southeast Asia emerges as a major generator of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and stock underwriting fees, with Thailand fast becoming a key source of income.

Thailand leapt onto the region’s investment banking map last year when Thai companies launched a record US$24.7 billion of outbound M&A deals, more than the combined total of the previous 10 years.

UBS advised and partly financed Thai tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont’s US$9.4 billion stake acquisition in China’s Ping An Insurance and his US$6.6 billion purchase of cash-and-carry wholesaler Siam Makro.

Sources said Phumchai was the main relationship banker in a market where UBS has benefited from its closeness to Dhanin and other corporates.

Southeast Asian billionaires have been aggressively bidding for assets outside their home markets.

Charoen Pokphand Foods, controlled by Dhanin, recently considered bidding for Smithfield Foods, a battle won by China’s privately-owned Shuanghui International for US$4.7 billion.

That came a few weeks after Dhanin’s convenience store chain CP All agreed to buy Siam Makro from Dutch firm SHV Holdings, the biggest Asia-Pacific M&A deal announced this year.

Surging M&A deals saw fees jump 13.8 per cent to US$879 million in the first six months of the year, according to Thomson Reuters/Freeman Consulting estimates, making Southeast Asia the biggest gainer in Asia.

UBS has named Saurabh Beniwal as head of investment banking for Southeast Asia excluding the Philippines to be based in Singapore, according to an internal note last month.

Not to be left behind in the grab for deals, Deutsche Bank earlier this year hired Goldman Sachs banker Boon Kee Tan as head of client coverage for Southeast Asia, and veteran JP Morgan banker Philip Lee as chief country officer for Singapore and vice-chairman for Southeast Asia.

Phumchai, who has been with UBS since 2004, will be appointed a new dual role as Deutsche Bank’s head of corporate banking and securities as well as head of corporate finance for Thailand, a source said, adding that he will be based in Bangkok.