With more than $16.2 billion in business, Salomon Smith Barney continued its rule over the public/rule 144A asset-backed market last quarter, according to preliminary figures provided by Thomson Financial Securities Data.

Salomon nearly doubled the $8.4 billion in managed proceeds for the same period in 2000. Assuming nobody breaches the bank's $4 billion press-time lead, this marks Salomon's fourth consecutive turn at the top.

Closing in on Salomon, No. 2-bank Credit Suisse First Boston took in more than $12.2 billion, $4.3 billion of which came from 144A mandates (a market in which CSFB wore the crown).

At $9.7 billion, Lehman Brothers edged just over J.P. Morgan Chase's $9.4 billion for the No. 3 spot.

However, in public-only league tables, JPMC was the No. 2 bank, with $8.8 billion in lead-managed proceeds. Last quarter was the first full quarter that the bank truly operated as a single entity, following the merger of J.P. Morgan and Chase Manhattan last fall.

"The combined ABS platform is very powerful and has allowed the new firm to serve a wide variety of client needs," said Bill Haley, managing director and head of the ABS capital markets group at JPMC.

JPMC's roster of mandates for the first quarter included General Motors Acceptance Corp., American Express, Ford Motor Credit, Sallie Mae, Metris Companies, Honda, Nissan, and Mellon Bank.

According to Haley, JPMC will benefit from the different strengths both firms brought to the table. "The combination of Chase's strong distribution platform and JP's cutting edge risk-transference mechanisms has greatly expanded our product offerings," Haley said.


144A Market

Despite a drop in issuance from the franchise, small business, one-off equipment and other typically private-market ABS niches, the volume in the Rule 144A market was more than $18 billion, approximately three times the 144A issuance in the first quarter 2000.

Much of that volume was attributable to the glut of CDOs in the first quarter.

CSFB came in No. 1 for privates with nearly $4.3 billion, followed closely by Lehman Brothers, which brought in nearly $4.1 billion, then Salomon Smith Barney, at $2.4 billion.

According to CDO bankers at Credit Suisse First Boston, the firm has taken the leading role in placing multi-sector CDOs, which have represented about one third of the bank's CDO business.

So far this quarter, CSFB has priced three multiclass CDOs, including Rabobank's $300 million Solstice, First Alliance's $500 million Pinstripe, and a $300 million deal for C-BASS.

"I would say we've had an active quarter in multi-sector CDOs, and have had a run rate of basically one deal a month, which is about double where we were last year," said Chris Ricciardi, who heads the multi-sector group at CSFB.

Ricciardi anticipates sustaining this pace. "We've built a very steady and growing base of investors and issuers," he added.

Multi-sector deals have been an especially hot topic for the securitization community, as they are essentially a synthetic investor base for structured products, particularly the sometimes difficult-to-place subordinate tranches of ABS.

Also, unlike the traditional corporate debt-backed CDOs, collateral managers for multi-sector deals often use the structure for purposes beyond arbitrage, i.e. as a financing mechanism.

"One of the hallmarks of this business, generically described as multi-sector, is that I think you have a lot players doing this for reasons other than just gathering the assets and earning fees," CSFB's Ricciardi said. "The motivations for doing these types of deals are much more diverse than you see in other sectors of the CDO market."

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