Year: 2020

Winner: JPMorgan

In the shadow of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, two developments stood out for JPMorgan’s head of Latin America Debt Capital Markets. The first was the speed at which bankers and clients adjusted to the reality of the virus and the acceleration of the move toward ESG-based financing.

“Productivity went through the roof, at the expense of building the culture,” Lisandro Miguens, said in an interview with LatinFinance, explaining there were other stunted areas included the ability to build partnerships and networks, training and mentorship.

“In six months you are not going to lose the culture of JPMorgan. But over time it might be a factor,” he said.

Still, with a firm grip on the market, long-standing relationships with issuers throughout the region, JPMorgan put together an impressive book of business that earned it the 2020 Bond House of the Year award. Success ran from sovereigns and corporates, debtor-in-possession financing, to ESG (environmental, social, and governance).

When 2020 began it was with a bang, with record level debt issuance. “We are starting even stronger in 2021,” Miguens said.

Looking back, however, at the deals that closed during the awards review period, Miguens highlighted the $750 million sustainability-linked debt issued by Brazilian pulp and paper company, Suzano.

“This was the first of its kind in emerging markets and the first in Latin America,” he said. “We got like 15 to 20 basis points below what Suzano has issued on a non-sustainability basis,” Miguens said, adding the bank spent a lot of time talking about the specific KPIs (key performance indicators) which will be audited and have a potential impact on payout rates should Suzano miss its targets. This deal also stood out as a winner of the 2020 Corporate High-Grade bond category. The bank was involved in seven of the LatinFinance category winners this year: structured finance, sovereign issuer, corporate issuer, quasi-sovereign, initial public offerings, and domestic M&A, in addition to the Suzano transaction.

“What is amazing is the amount of mandates that have come through because of the green component. A year ago it was only the Brazilians and some Mexican (issuers). Now, I saw, because of COVID, a big change. It became more widespread,” he said.

As 2021 unfolds, Miguens expect, now that many companies have shored up their balance sheets, the coming year’s issuance might be driven more by mergers & acquisitions activity.

“It will be across the board. Technology, payment systems, natural resources. I don’t think there is any particular (sectoral) trend. ESG will continue to be a theme. It won’t take over the market, but continue to be an important theme.” – LF