Inside Track: Bank of America Merrill Lynch closes 2013 with a flurry

David Hellier
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THE timing appeared so impeccable, you almost felt it must have been staged. Just as Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of equity capital markets was running through a presentation on how the bank has gained market share over the year, one of the mobiles on the desk in front of him rang.

With that Craig Coben rushed off to put the finishing touches to Lloyds Bank’s near £900m sale of shares in St James’s Place, another deal that will help the US bank further up the league table.

It is the third time Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) has acted for Lloyds in connection with share sales in St James’s this year, which will surely put the bank in pole position to play a lead role in advising Lloyds on UKFI’s expected share sales in the New Year.

Prior to Coben dashing out of the room, he explained that the bank, which is enjoying a return to form, had risen up the league tables in terms of equity capital markets deals from fifth last year to third place in 2013.

It is possible that the St James’s Place deal and its role in advising on the new issue of Moncler in Milan might put it even higher in the end of year tables.

According to the BAML data Goldman Sachs tops the table, followed by JP Morgan, with Deutsche in fourth place and Morgan Stanley in fifth.

The biggest fall over the year comes from Credit Suisse, which drops from sixth to eighth, whilst Barclays, which has been especially active in UK new issues comes in at ninth. I have written before how the decision by Credit Suisse to focus less on volume and more on profitability has caused the bank to miss out or withdraw from deals. But the concern will be that it will become a peripheral figure in the investment banking hierarchy.

When Mark Preston was appointed by majority shareholder Michael Spencer as executive chairman of CityIndex three months ago, City A.M. pointed out things did not look all that good for chief executive Martin Belsham. And so it has proved, with Belsham’s departure announced yesterday.

Belsham cleared up a lot of the legacy problems with bad debt that the firm had when he came in during 2008 and restored it to relative health.

But accounts filed at Companies House shows the firm is not yet where Spencer would like it to be. There was a 14 per cent decline in trading volumes year on year, taking earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation down from £10.3m to £1.3m.

Preston will take over as interim chief executive while a search begins for a permanent successor.

Watch this space.