March 26, 2018 / 6:45 PM / in 3 months

Citi, Goldman and rivals ramp up Brazil banker poaching war

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Global investment banks from Citigroup to Goldman Sachs are hiring again in Brazil after years of retrenchment as historically low interest rates fuel a recovery as well as a small boom in M&A and stock and local bond offerings.

FILE PHOTO - The Citigroup Inc (Citi) logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Most of the moves, several of them involving one bank hiring away top talent from another, are likely to wrap up by the end of the first quarter, when bonuses related to the former year are paid.

Some of the hirings were announced late last year and effective from February to April.

Although there is no official data on investment banking jobs in Brazil, the elite bankers whose employers’ steel and glass towers line Sao Paulo’s Faria Lima avenue represent less than 2 percent of the 467,900 employees of the banking industry in the country.

Citigroup Inc.’s (C.N) Brazil unit late last year poached Eduardo Miras, former co-head of investment banking at Morgan Stanley (MS.N), to head Citi’s equivalent unit, which has remained active even after the U.S. bank sold its retail business to Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB4.SA).

More than two executives also left Morgan Stanley to join Citi with Miras, people with knowledge of the matter said. The banks declined to comment.

Morgan Stanley, in turn, hired former Citi managing director Felipe Mattar a month later and relocated two other executives within the bank to Brazil.

Flavio Valadao, former head of investment banking at Banco Santander Brasil SA (SANB11.SA), is expected to begin as vice-chairman of the Brazilian unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) next month, after the departure of Patricia Moraes, who had been at the U.S. bank for more than 20 years.

“We are investing in new hirings due to the increased activity in Brazilian capital markets and M&A,” JPMorgan’s head of investment banking in Brazil Pedro Juliano said in an interview at the bank’s headquarters in Sao Paulo last week.

Among other Wall Street banks, Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) hired banker Ricardo Bellissi, who had replaced Valadao as the head of investment banking at Santander Brasil. To replace him, Santander hired Paulo Mendes, who was running his own M&A boutique.

BUSY YEAR

Last year was Brazil’s busiest for initial public offerings since 2013, with 10 IPOs raising $5.5 billion. Including secondary offerings, Brazilian companies raised around $13 billion, nearly five times the amount in 2016.

Brazilian mergers and acquisitions activity surged 33 percent last year to $61.8 billion in deals, driven by asset sales by conglomerates under pressure for corruption probes, such as J&F Investimentos, which also owns meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA).

Deals in the first quarter were valued at nearly $15 billion with an increasing number of acquisitions motivated by big synergies or bets on the country’s recovery, such as the deal between pulp makers Suzano Papel e Celulose SA (SUZB3.SA) and Fibria Celulose SA (FIBR3.SA) announced earlier this month.

Brazilian banks such as Itaú Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB4.SA), Banco Bradesco SA (BBDC4.SA) and Banco BTG Pactual SA (BPAC3.SA), which already had larger deals teams and did not cut staff as much during the recession, have not hired senior people recently. Some of them, such as BTG Pactual, are adding junior bankers.

“We do not radically change the team’s size according to market conditions, we endure the cycles,” said Roderick Greenlees, head of investment banking at Itaú Unibanco’s investment bank, Itaú BBA SA.

Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Christian Plumb and Daniel Flynn

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