It's official. Credit Suisse First Boston was the No.1 underwriter in 1999 according to ABS league tables supplied by Thomson Financial Securities Data.

CSFB was responsible for $37.8 billion worth of business in asset-backed debt in both the public and Rule 144A market. With 102 transactions it was ranked first in public deals, claiming 15.4% of the market share. Looking at the private side, CSFB was rated No. 2 with 78 deals and $7.6 billion worth of business. (See tables on p. 10.)

Jorge Calderon, managing director of asset finance, credits CSFB's achievements to a consistent approach of focusing on being one of the top three in each market group, and to the experience of the professionals employed at CSFB.

"In part, our success is based on the tenure of our senior professionals with CSFB," said Calderon. "Most of us have been here for six to 10 years and we work extremely well together."

The largest deal CSFB did last year was an auto loan deal with American Honda Finance Corp. for $3 billion. Some of its more important deals were with Crusade Global Trust, an Australian mortgage lender, for $1 billion, and two General Motors Acceptance Corp. auto loan deals for proceeds of $1.2 billion and $1.1 billion each.

Earning the Australian Bond Deal of the Year Award, the Crusade transaction was done in the Australian market but swapped over into the U.S. market for American currency. Of the GMAC deals, one was issued in Swiss francs and is credited as being the Swiss Bond Deal of the Year. Both deals broke ground, with soft bullet structures - a first of its kind for auto-backeds.

"This issuance provides cash flows that are similar to other fixed-income benchmarks such as credit card asset-backed securities, corporate bonds and treasuries," said a director at CSFB.

Eugene Xu, vice president of research at CSFB, feels that these bullets are a "very useful structure" and "make the bonds more desirable to the investor."

Meanwhile, Salomon Smith Barney, maintaining the No. 2 spot for the second and third quarters, earned backed its first-place ranking in the fourth quarter with $7.8 billion in business done in the public and 144A markets. With Salomon Smith Barney closing 177 deals in 1999 - just three shy of CSFB's 180 - it is no mystery why the company was ranked the No. 2 overall underwriter for 1999.

Lehman Brothers was no slouch in the rankings race either. It claimed 16.4% of the private market share for 1999 with $10.5 billion worth of business, a factor that may have helped them to acquire the third-highest overall ranking for underwriters in 1999. Lehman managed a total of 161 deals and was responsible for $34.6 billion worth of the proceeds made in the public and Rule 144A asset-backed market this past year.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter also left its mark in the Rule 144A market, ending the year with a No. 3 ranking for private underwritings. Its deals accounted for 11.6% of the private ABS market in 1999, allowing them to reel in $7.4 billion worth of business. In the combined asset-backed market of public and 144A deals, Morgan was ranked No. 5 with proceeds totaling $20.6 billion for the entire year.

Looking back at business done in 1999, Calderon feels that "it was a relatively strong market despite a number of issues that plagued everyone." One of the larger issues was the anticipation of Y2K, which caused the market to shut down early in December.

"Spreads in 1999 were quite wide for a considerably long period of time," stated Calderon. "Despite this wide spread environment the market was quite liquid."

Calderon anticipates that there will be more activity this year and foresees the total volume increasing by 5% to 10% from 1999. "I would expect the floating market to improve," Calderon added.

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