As their clients seize the opportunities offered by China property bonds, sellside firms have also shifted their research coverage, which stood out in this year’s Asset Benchmark Research survey of the best individuals in Asian G3 bonds.
The most notable case this year comes from BNP Paribas. Agnes Wong, head of Asia and credit desk analyst who joined the bank in 2019, has built the firm’s Asia research franchise within a year by covering the Chinese high-yield corporates and the property sector extensively. “Agnes thinks more like an offshore investor and is great at reaching out to investors whenever she has a good trade idea,” observes an investor managing an absolute return fund.
There could be a divergence of views on who enjoys investors’ confidence. For example, Stella Li, an analyst at Citi, earned votes from investors based in the UK, the US, South Korea and mainland China, and is still the top analyst in this year’s ranking. Yet, the buy calls during the past 12 months on troubled credits such as Peking University Founder Group and TUS Holding were controversial.
The broader coverage, including on corporates from India and Indonesia, and China investment-grade names, also helped Citi’s market position in sellside research. Manjesh Verma, head of Asia credit sector specialist, and Frank Wu, who left Citi last month (August), are also ranked this year.
Veteran Asian credit analyst Soo Chong Lim at JP Morgan is one of the top three for the fifth consecutive year. “Soo Chong at JPM is the head of the team, but he focuses more on the China high yields and Indo high yields,” comments a US-based portfolio manager. “He’s been doing it a really long time, so you know that he knows the issuers." His team member, Varun Ahuja, who covers investment grade, Indian HY and China oil and gas, is highly commended.
Nomura, meanwhile, saw the departure of Annisa Lee, the former head of credit research, last October 2019. She later joined PIMCO. Her successor, Nicholas Yap, who is one of the top five analysts, moved up in the ranking. Similar to the credit research model of Citi, Nomura also covers China HY, Indonesian HY, Indian HY, and Asian investment grade. Iris Chen, Vishal Kulkarni, Eric Liu, and Clare Guo are also ranked this year.
Joyce Liang, head of Asia-Pacific credit research at Bank of America, continues to rank as the top economist/strategist, receiving recognition from private banks, asset managers, and hedge funds in Asia, the US, and the UK. “Joyce Liang is fabulous,” says a US-based portfolio manager. “She is just outstanding. She is a strategist, but she also knows so much about Chinese property because that’s what she did before. Maybe that’s why she’s such a good strategist because she has a very good deep knowledge of the different companies themselves. I think that’s a nice way to come at it as opposed to a general pie-in-the-sky ‘how are the sovereigns doing’ and mixing it in with a bit about the corporates.”
Kelvin Pang, head of Asia credit strategy at Morgan Stanley, has improved from last year and is ranked second this year. Ting Meng at ANZ, Steve Wang at CITIC CLSA, and Becky Liu at Standard Chartered who moved up to be one of the top ten analysts have received nominations from Chinese-related institutional investors, a growing slice of the buyside investors group.
On the sales and trading side, with Conor Yuan’s exit from UBS, Wentao Yan from Nomura and Kevin Zhao at UBS continue to dominate the top sellside trader positions in the market. Zhirong Chen, of ANZ Singapore, offers the third alternative for investors in trading. However, with recent news of Conor Yuan coming back to the sellside under Goldman Sachs, the competitive landscape for market makers is likely to change again for the next 12 months.
Yili Dong at Citi and Bessie Wang at Bank of China International are the top two salespeople in the Asian G3 bond market this year. Christina Park from Morgan Stanley ranks third. She has received nominations from prominent international asset managers and hedge funds, suggesting that despite the rise of Chinese-related institutional investors, international fund houses still have a significant stake in the Asian G3 bond market.
To view the rankings of the best sellside individuals in Asian G3 bond market, please click here.
To view the rankings of the best sellside individuals in Asian G3 CDS market, please click here.