Citigroup expects investment banking revenues in Southeast Asia to soar this year, and showed its confidence by moving one of its two Asia-Pacific chief executives from Hong Kong to Singapore.

Shirish Apte will relocate to focus on ASEAN nations as well as India and Australia, while Stephen Bird will remain in Hong Kong to deal with greater China, Korea and Japan.

Thanks to record volumes of initial public offerings and debt deals, investment banking revenue reached a record US$1.59 billion in 2010 (up from $1.19 billion in 2009). This is despite higher than expected inflation rates and political volatility in some Southeast Asian countries, and Mr. Apte said conversations with clients had revealed there was still a high level of interest in ASEAN investment.

Companies would increasingly turn to capital-raising from investors as banks became more risk averse and the new Basel III regulations required banks to maintain higher levels of capital and keep more liquid assets. Meanwhile, ASEAN stockmarkets were among the world’s best performers in 2010. Mr. Apte identified key areas of activity as real estate and financial services in Singapore, palm oil and energy in Malaysia, and resources and commodities in Indonesia.

Citigroup has operations in all ASEAN countries except Cambodia, Laos and Burma, with $57 million in investment banking revenues. It is also the first US bank to offer credit cards in Vietnam, and assisted the Vietnamese government raise $1 billion through debt sales.

source & article: Dow Jones via The Australian