JPMorgan Ousted as Mideast-Africa’s Top Dealmaker by U.S. Rivals

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is no longer the top dealmaker in the Middle East and Africa after losing ground this year to rivals Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

Citigroup leads the regional league table for initial public offerings, buoyed by its re-entry to Saudi Arabia in 2017 after a 13-year absence. It also worked on secondary placements from Egypt’sHikma Pharmaceuticals and the United Arab Emirate’s Network International Holdings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

For Morgan Stanley, advising on the $18 billion merger ofNational Commercial Bank andSamba Financial Group, one of the biggest bank combinations of the year, helped propel it to the top of the table for takeovers. It also worked with a consortium that invested $10 billion inAbu Dhabi National Oil Co.’s gas pipelines.

Citigroup had “a very strong 2020” after renewed investments in people and capital in the region over the past few years, Miguel Azevedo, head of investment banking in the Middle East and Africa, said in an interview.

“We expect further IPO activity in 2021, both in the Middle East and Africa,” he said.

JPMorgan declined to comment.

Deal flow in the Middle East has slowed from last year, whenAramco’s $30 billion IPO and $70 billion acquisition of a stake inSaudi Basic Industries Corp. boosted activity to a record.

But bankers still see signs that budget stresses caused by the coronavirus and low oil prices will encourage more deals as governments look to raise money through asset sales. Business owners, meanwhile, are looking to sell stock or merge to grow in size.

‘Unprecedented Challenges’

This year presented “unprecedented challenges as many clients needed to consider options they might not have thought about otherwise,” said Sammy Kayello, chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley’s Middle East and North Africa business. “We’re optimistic about 2021.”

Next year looks set to be a busy one for IPOs, particularly from Saudi Arabia. The CEO of the Saudi stock exchange said earlier this month that the pipeline is “much better” than in the past five years, with companies includingAcwa Power and Solutions by STC expected to sell shares.

International investment banks have increasingly focused efforts on building a presence in the Middle East’s biggest economy, as Saudi Arabia was largely shut off to foreign investors until 2015.

Citigroup, which had been present in Saudi Arabia since 1955, exited in 2004, and obtained an investment-banking license three years ago as the country opened up.

Mixed Performance

In Africa, deal flow was mixed. While South African equity sales rose 31% from 2019 — when they sank to the worst levels in at least 12 years — the value of takeover deals dropped by almost a third to a three-year low. The continent’s most industrialized economy is trapped in its longestdownward cycle since 1945.

In Ghana, Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s potentialsale of its oil and gas stakes, andMTN Group Ltd.’s disposal of its telecoms towers boosted transactions credited to the West African nation. Mauritius and Nigeria also chalked up M&A improvements, although the sum total of deals from the three countries was only slightly higher than those from South Africa.

Standard Chartered Plc was the top arranger for bond sales from the Middle East and North Africa for the third year. With almost $140 billion raised in bond and sukuk sales, issuance reached a record, with sales driven by sovereigns looking to plug budget shortfalls.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Johannesburg-basedStandard Bank Group Ltd. toppled Standard Chartered as the No. 1 arranger of debt.

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