SocGen aims to hire 200 in M&A push

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Société Générale has launched a significant expansion drive in European M&A and equity capital markets, and is aiming to hire up to 200 professionals in Europe by the end of this year.

The expansion is part of a wider plan drawn up at the end of last year, and comes on the back of a global reorganisation of the French bank's investment banking activities into seven core sectors across all business units which was implemented at the end of last month.

In an interview with Financial News last week Xavier Debonneuil, chief executive of SG Investment Banking, said: 'Building our M&A and equity origination business is key to our strategy.

'Before the end of the year we expect to have hired more than 70 bankers and analysts in the European technology sector. We are also expanding our teams in other sectors.'

Debonneuil declined to give final figures for the total number of bankers the firm hoped to hire this year, but said it would be a 'big number'.

One source in Paris said he believed it would approach 200.

Debonneuil said the firm had learned a lot from its acquisition in 1998 of Cowen & Co, the US technology bank, in terms of its approach to investment banking. 'Our experience of the US market improved our vision of the investment banking business.

'We identified the sectors in which we needed to invest and we believe that by focusing on these sectors on a global basis, we will be able to significantly develop our position in the market,' said Debonneuil.

He cited the example of SG Cowen - fourth place by number of deals in the US healthcare sector in the first half of the year - as evidence that a strong sector focus, backed up by research and banking professionals, can reap results.

The company will concentrate on the following seven sectors: technology, media and telecoms, healthcare, transport, financial institutions, commodities and utilities.

Debonneuil said that in addition to the tech sector, SG would invest particularly in media and telecoms, healthcare and utilities.

In Europe, SG will focus primarily on the mid-cap market. 'In Europe, the ground is much more fertile for expansion in the mid-cap market,' said Debonneuil, who added that SG planned to use

its strength in trade and export finance, as well as growing high-yield business, to service its client base.

To pay for this expansion in investment banking, SG has overhauled its back-office and support functions, and rationalised them into a single global structure.

'The cost efficiencies from this are being invested in increasing the number and profile of professionals directly servicing our clients,' said Debonneuil.

The expansion comes on the back of strong first half results for investment banking at Société Générale, headed by Daniel Bouton. This month it announced a 35% increase in net income and an astonishing 75% return on equity.