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B of A Merrill Retakes No. 1 Spot Among Muni Underwriters

JAN 2, 2013 6:11pm ET
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Bank of America Merrill Lynch reclaimed its title as the top underwriter of municipal debt for 2012 after losing it to JPMorgan in 2011, when it dropped to third place.

The investment bank significantly out-issued other underwriters in both long-term negotiated and competitive deals, which combined to a total of $53 billion from 462 issues and a 14.5% market share in 2012, according to Thomson Reuters data.

B of A Merrill’s negotiated deals totaled $38.7 billion and its competitive issues totaled $14.3 billion.

“Being number one in 2012 is a reflection of our commitment to our clients and the confidence they have placed in us,” said John Lawlor, head of public sector banking and markets at B of A Merrill.

“It is also a recognition of the strength and innovation of our banking, underwriting, sales and trading platform.”

JPMorgan came in second with 372 issues, totaling $43.2 billion. Negotiated issues totaled $31.2 billion and competitive issues totaled $12 billion, giving the firm a total market share of 11.8%.

“Over the last three years we’ve made a concerted effort to add top banking personnel across the country. In the last six to 18 months, we’ve made significant investments in our West Coast presence, as well as our presence in the higher education sectors,” said Paul Palmeri, managing director and head of public finance at JPMorgan. “We’ve seen that pay dividends for us and we expect that to continue throughout 2013 and beyond.”

Thomson Reuters rankings only include long-term issuance, which is usually defined as issues with a final maturity of at least 1.09 years. When taking into account short-term issuance in addition to long-term issuance, JPMorgan would rank number one among underwriters, with a total of $61 billion, according to data compiled by The Bond Buyer utilizing Thomson Reuters statistics.

JPMorgan underwrote 133 short-term issues totaling $17.6 billion last year. Wells Fargo had the second largest amount of short-term issues, totaling $8.7 billion, and B of A had the third largest amount, with $4.9 billion.

Returning to long-term issuance rankings, Citi took the number three spot with 450 issues totaling $42.4 billion and an 11.6% market share. Morgan Stanley came in fourth with 259 issues, totaling $24.2 billion.

RBC Capital Markets joined the top five underwriters this year after climbing up two spots from last year’s rank of seventh place. It worked on 631 issues totaling $20.9 billion of long-term issuance in 2012, giving the firm a market share of 5.7%, up from 5% in 2011.

Chris Hamel, managing director and head of the muni finance group at RBC, said that for the past few years, the firm has been focused on increasing participation among the nation’s largest issuers, and in 2012 it was retained as a participating senior manager for 17 new large-issuer clients.

“The fruit of our labor over the last few years was most noticeable this year with respect to our participation with larger issuers and, thus, our rankings,” he said.

For example, RBC served as coordinating book-runner in the $2 billion Port Authority of New York and New Jersey September transaction, which was one of the largest debt offerings of the year.

RBC has also been focused on building out its health care, public power, transportation and single-family housing sectors, which, in addition to its greater presence in California, has helped lift the firm’s rankings.

“The kind of growth we’ve seen over the last year is not the endpoint, but the midpoint in terms of the aspirations of the department,” Hamel said. “Our plan is for prudent strategic growth to further expand our involvement with large-issuing clients and continued increase in market share.”

Barclays, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs & Co. took the sixth, seventh and eighth spots, respectively.

Among financial advisors, Public Financial Management ranked number one across the board, with 900 issues, totaling $56.9 billion in 2012.

“We’re very proud of PFM’s long record of market leadership,” said John Bonow, chief executive officer of the firm. 

“I think it reflects the trust that we’ve always worked very hard to develop with our clients and that I believe they have in us.”

The firm also took the top spot in the negotiated, competitive and small-issue categories, with a total of $43 billion, $13.9 billion, and $1.7 billion, respectively.

“Whether it’s small transactions or competitive transactions or very large complex negotiated transactions, I think we have the resources to be able to be an effective advisor in any of those arenas and help our clients achieve an appropriate cost of capital,” Bonow said.

Public Resources Advisory Group came in second with a total of $26.5 billion and First Southwest came in third with $24 billion.

Lamont Financial Service Corp took fourth place with $14.9 billion.

Acacia Financial Group joined the top five financial advisors in 2012, jumping to fifth place from 13th place the year before.

Kim Whelan, co-president of Acacia, said the large climb in rankings isn’t the result of just one year, but of a strategy the firm has been employing since 2006, which is to develop a presence with major issuers in a state and expand from there.

“It’s all catching up,” Whelan said. “Last year the market was pretty down on municipals and I think we picked up several clients along the way, big issuers that weren’t doing anything, and then all of our clients sort of hit at one time.”

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