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Global banks extend retreat from Asian bond markets: researcher

[HONG KONG] Some global banks pulled back from Asia's local currency bond markets in 2014, hit by increasingly stringent capital requirements and declining revenues, researcher Greenwich Associates said on Monday, creating new opportunities for local operators. "From the dealers' perspective, maintaining a franchise in domestic currency Asian bonds is a very expensive and very capital-intensive proposition," said Abhi Shroff, a Greenwich Associates consultant in Singapore.

The pull-back by global institutions has created opportunities for domestic banks such as KDB Daewoo Securities and Woori Investment & Securities in South Korea, ICBC, Bank of China and CITIC Securities in China, ICICI Securities and Axis Bank in India, and CIMB and Maybank in Malaysia, Greenwich said.

Large global banks have steadily pulled out of the Asian local currency bond markets because they could not compete with local players on costs, especially when revenue flow began to slow down. "None of the large global banks are increasing headcount and they are taking a long, hard look at their fixed-income, commodity and currency businesses," said an independent fixed-income credit strategist.

RBS's planned exit from its Asia operations is the latest high-profile departure. In recent years, UBS has broadly retreated from Asian fixed-income markets while Barclays has cut back on staff numbers. "Real money" foreign investors have also pulled back from Asia's local currency bond markets, with foreign holdings of domestic bonds as a percentage of their total ownership declining in most markets. Malaysia and Philippines have seen the biggest declines, according to data compiled by BNP Paribas.

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But not all global banks have left the field. Currently in Asia-ex Japan, Australia and New Zealand, HSBC is the top fixed-income operator with an 11 per cent market share, followed by Citi with an 8.8 percent share and Deutsche Bank at 7.4 per cent.