Making the grade - The Asset Triple A Country Awards 2018, Southeast Asia

The Asset offers recognition to those institutions who have demonstrated they have what it takes to be the best advisers in a volatile market environment

The volatile market environment this year has undoubtedly unnerved issuers and borrowers alike, as well as investors, forcing many of them to stay on the sidelines, but, nevertheless, weakened sentiment failed to prevent deals from getting done.

Indeed, despite the prevalence of uncertainty, activities in some countries have picked up from 2017, a clear demonstration of resiliency in the face of headwinds brought about by rising interest rates and the Sino-US trade tensions.

One of the markets that impressed the board of editors at The Asset when evaluating the submissions to the Triple A Country Awards 2018 was Vietnam, which was a favourite destination for investors this year in the wake of the country's sustained economic stability. Its IPO market, for instance, recorded a comfortably higher volume, registering US$2.28 billion as at November 30 this year, according to Refinitiv, compared with just US$859.7 million in the same period of 2017.

Indonesia is another jurisdiction in Southeast Asia that also saw an increased level of activity in the IPO market this year, with a volume of about US$1.12 billion, against US$553.2 million last year. The performances in Vietnam and Indonesia were in contrast to the declines exhibited in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Indonesia also recorded a bigger G3 bond issuance as at November 15 this year at over US$18.24 billion, according to Refinitiv figures, compared with US$16.28 billion a year ago. Issuances in Singapore and Thailand also rose during the same period, but those from the Philippines and Malaysia went down.

Among banks, Citi was a big winner in Southeast Asia, scooping four Best Bank awards in the global category in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, driven by its robust corporate and consumer banking franchises, as well as leveraging on its broader global network. In Vietnam, the bank has been making rapid strides in growing its market share in the business of credit cards, loans, wealth management and insurance. It was also involved in a number of capital markets deals that stood out in this market during 2018.

HSBC, meanwhile, secured the Best Bank accolades in Malaysia and the Philippines. The bank continued to enhance its business in the Philippines, building a strong and sustainable business in the country and leading the market in developing and deploying digital capabilities for corporate clients. It was a major arranger in debt capital markets, with all transactions during the review period being repeat mandates, demonstrating the issuers/borrowers' confidence in the capability of HSBC in executing their funding exercise.

HSBC also delivered another solid performance in Malaysia across products with commercial banking, rolling out several streamlining initiatives and digital tools to improve turnaround time and enhance customer experience. The bank's broad Islamic banking/finance business also put HSBC ahead of the competition in Malaysia, where a big chunk of the transactions pertaining to capital markets are arranged based on Shariah principles.

Credit Suisse distinguished itself in the Corporate and Institutional Bank space, winning this honour in the global category in Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. It was involved in several market-defining transactions in these countries, such as in the sale of Fullerton Financial Holdings' US$5.9 billion stake in Bank Danamon to Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Singapore and in several landmark deals related to debt capital markets in Indonesia.

In Vietnam, Credit Suisse was involved, among others, in Hanwha Group's US$400 million strategic investment in Vingroup, the US$1.35 billion initial equity offering for Vinhomes and in the US$310 million concurrent convertible bond and equity placement offering by Novaland Investment.

In Singapore, DBS was dominant in its home market, winning awards in six categories, including Best Bank and Best Corporate and Institutional Bank in the domestic category, and DBS Vickers as the Best Brokerage House. The bank's bond franchise was impressive for its capability in arranging issuances not just in the local currency but through the US dollar as well.

The same sort of dominance was manifested by Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand, which was also voted as the Best Bank and Best Corporate and Institutional Bank in the domestic category, plus Best Equity and Best Bond Adviser – domestic.

In the Philippines, and in a similar vein, BDO Unibank and its investment banking arm, BDO Capital and Investment Corporation, reign over the competition as they respectively won the Best Bank and Best Corporate and Institutional Bank in the domestic category.

BDO Capital was also chosen as the Best Equity Adviser, this a year highlighted by rights offerings of the banks, and Best Loan Adviser for arranging significant transactions such as the 73.5 billion pesos (US$1.37 billion) long-term syndicated debt facility for Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, which represented one of the largest corporate syndications ever drawn in the Philippine debt capital markets.

This year saw first time debt issuances from frontier markets such as in Cambodia, where NagaCorp printed the first ever public bond from a Cambodian issuer, amounting to US$300 million. Turning to Papua New Guinea, the sovereign finally cracked the offshore bond market with a US$500 million offering that enabled the sovereign to diversify its funding sources away from the expensive local borrowing.

Other deals that stood out in 2018 include the US$580 million green project bond for Star Energy Geothermal (Wayang Windu) in Indonesia, representing the first high-yield project bond offering in Asia-Pacific for more than a decade, and the US$500 million sustainability-linked club loan facility for Olam International in Singapore, which was Asia's first sustainability-linked club loan where the interest rate on the facility will be reduced if pre-set improvement targets are achieved.

Also in Singapore, the US$501 million asset-backed securities for Astrea IV represented the first time retail private equity bonds were offered to the Singapore retail public.

For the complete list of winning banks/advisers, please click here.

For the complete list of winning deals, please click here.