Despite the devastating toll Covid-19 has had on the South Asia region, dealmaking remained vigorous amid the volatility in the marketplace. From Bangladesh to India and Pakistan, companies continued to execute their fundraising plans and look for opportunities to operate under unpredictable conditions.
In the region’s largest economy India, the equity capital markets in 2021 had a stellar year as companies, particular those in the technology and new economy sector, took advantage of the favourable sentiment to their business models to list domestically. The likes of F&B online platform Zomato captured a beneficial market window and registered a strong performance on the first day of trading. Overall, the equity market saw solid returns for investors with India’s NIFTY 50 Index returning around 20% for the year.
Even sectors that appeared to be heavily affected by the ongoing pandemic such as real estate investment trusts (Reits) were able to access the capital markets, whether through an initial public offering or a qualified institutional placement, and saw fruitful results.
In similar fashion, Indian G3 bond activity surpassed 2020 numbers as issuers took advantage of the low rates before a potential Fed rate hike this year. Debut names, particularly in the information technology space such as Wipro, caught the eye of fixed-income investors.
Bonds with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) theme continued to play a big part of the conversation for Indian issuers with renewable energy companies and subsidiaries of traditional Indian conglomerates such as the JSW Hydro Energy making their debut into the G3 market, looking to attract investors aiming to fulfil their ESG mandates.
Leveraged buyout activity in India also experienced significant growth over the past year with sponsors deploying capital and investing in businesses that have outperformed during the pandemic. Blackstone’s US$1.1 billion term facility for the acquisition of Mphasis is one deal of note, being the largest-ever leveraged loan raised in India.
Other markets in South Asia such as Pakistan likewise had a fairly active year with institutions providing ample financing for large well-known names. In early 2021, the Pakistani government was able to return to the G3 bond market after a hiatus of several years and is also reportedly planning to do a sukuk in the coming quarters.
Brokerage houses in Pakistan faced a very competitive landscape with both institutional and retail investors demanding high-quality research and services from their partners. Like several other economies, Pakistan remained resilient. According to bankers familiar with the country, local manufacturers there for the most part were not severely affected by the ongoing pandemic. Forex reserves in the country are the highest since 2017.
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Throughout this week, The Asset will be revealing the winners of the Triple A Country Awards 2021. Stay tuned for more results on theasset.com.