Lehman cuts Singapore staff, follows rivals

April 8, 2002
Singapore Democrats

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SINGAPORE, April 2 (Reuters) – Lehman Brothers (LEH) said on Tuesday it was reducing the size of its investment banking team in Singapore, following similar cuts by rivals Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse First Boston as deals dry up in Southeast Asia.

“We are realigning resources to best match with business opportunities,” Jenny Choi, a spokeswoman for Lehman Brothers based in Hong Kong, told Reuters.

Choi declined to give the number of people affected but said the bank would still have a small investment banking presence in Singapore to cover Singapore clients.

Investment bankers said some members of the group had relocated to Hong Kong, possibly to tap growing opportunities in China and other North Asian markets.

Goldman Sachs (GS) said last week it would centralise more of its Asian business in Hong Kong amid talk it will cut its investment banking team in Singapore and other parts of Asia by as much as two-thirds.

Sources also said Credit Suisse First Boston (CSGZn) planned to cut about 20 investment banking jobs in Asia to reduce costs.

Banking sources in Singapore said the focus was shifting from the city-state — which had a bumper year of mega-mergers among domestic banks in 2001 — to North Asia.

“Last year was a horrible year for investment banking and the bank mergers was what kept a couple of investment banks afloat. Overall deal volume is way down and it’s still down this year,” an investment banker with a U.S. institution in Singapore said.

“At this point, all the deal flow is coming out of China and generally North Asia, so the focus is really shifting away,” she said, noting that Chinese initial public offerings was one area where companies had a chance of meeting their budgets this year.

There was also interest in South Korea and Taiwan for mergers and acquisitions.