February 5, 2020 / 6:46 AM / 2 months ago

Jefferies steps up CLSA fight by launching rival Hong Kong investor forum

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Jefferies Group LLC ratcheted up its rivalry with brokerage CLSA, announcing it will host a new annual investor meeting that will be held around the same time and in the same venue this year as the Hong Kong firm’s own popular yearly forum.

The U.S.-based investment bank and brokerage has poached more than 50 staff in the past year from CLSA including long-time CEO Jonathan Slone as well as research analysts across Asia-Pacific including top-ranked analyst Christopher Wood.

The inaugural Jefferies Asia Forum will be held in Hong Kong during Sept. 14-17 at the Grand Hyatt hotel, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday, adding Jefferies research analysts will present their investment themes and ideas at the event.

CLSA has been holding a week-long forum in the city for 26 years, which is famous among bankers, top company executives, and investors for its partying and celebrity speakers.

Celebrities including George Clooney, David Beckham and former adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, have participated in the CLSA event in recent years. Music performances at its parties have included those from Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and Jessie J.

In 15 of those 26 years, CLSA has used mid-September for the event which includes hundreds of investor and executive meetings as well as a full agenda of on-stage sessions. The Grand Hyatt has been the venue for at least eight of those.

Jefferies [JGLL.UL] has been working on plans to host an annual forum to boost its brand visibility and compete with CLSA to grab a bigger share of the brokerage business in Asia soon after hiring Slone and other senior bankers in the middle of last year, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The U.S. brokerage did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for further details.

A CLSA spokeswoman declined to comment.

Last year Slone, Wood, and a host of other CLSA bankers, including its Chairman Tang Zhenyi, left the brokerage, which was bought by Chinese brokerage CITIC Securities (600030.SS) in 2013 for $1.3 billion.

The resignations resulted from CITIC’s efforts to revamp CLSA’s daily operations and from differences over strategy, people with direct knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Jefferies said the forum presented an opportunity to press ahead with the next phase of its long-term investment in the region.

“We are particularly pleased to have been able to attract nearly 300 additional Jefferies employees to the region over the past two years to help us better serve our clients in the decades ahead,” it said in the statement.

Jefferies’ stepped-up Asia expansion comes at a time when some investment banks are looking to reduce costs in the cut-throat businesses of equities sales, trading and research in the region.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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