The most wide open race of asset-backed underwriting in recent memory came to a close last week, won by a nose after JPMorgan Securities priced a $1.5 billion Chase Credit Card Master Trust transaction at the eleventh hour to best Credit Suisse First Boston by $666 million, according to Thomson Financial. This is the first time JPMorgan has topped the list of underwriters and is the culmination of the combined synergy resulting from the late 2000 merger between JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan Bank.

This is also the second straight year CSFB has lost its league table lead on Dec. 31.

In a year that saw virtually all large offerings brought via joint lead managers, the top five underwriters accounted for 50.8% of the entire market. The top 10 underwriters accounted for 78.7% of the entire market. But as underwriting fees shrink, some banks clearly are moving away from the top, while others set forth the groundwork for a march up the ladder in 2003.

JPMorgan sold more than $50.7 billion of ABS supply throughout 2002, staving off its four leading competitors that, as of mid-year, were all within $4 billion of the leading spot. JPMorgan captured 11.4% of the market and increased its production 10.6% versus 2001 underwriting volume. JPMorgan was strongest in the auto loan sector of the market, having priced $12.8 billion, or 16% of the sector and the bank took over the credit card sector, with $17 billion or 24.5% market share of last year's credit card ABS.

With its second straight second place finish, CSFB brought $50.1 billion of ABS supply, accounting for 11.2% of the market, which was actually a slight (2.13%) decrease from 2001 volume. CSFB's strengths were CDO's, where it has been a dominant force for some time and, surprisingly, real estate ABS, where it led $22.4 billion of new-issue supply.

2001 underwriting champ, Salomon Smith Barney which won last year on a New Year's Eve pricing of a self-led credit card transaction finished last year in third place, with $48 billion of ABS placed in the hands of investors, or 10.8% of the market. Salomon's 2002 production represents a 7.45% decrease from 2001 levels.

With $40.5 billion sold and 9.1% of the market, Deutsche Bank Securities finished fourth, but placed 9.5% more ABS product than last year. Deutsche Bank was the leading underwriter of student loan ABS.

The largest percentage gainer versus 2001 underwriting volume was Banc of America Securities, which moved into the top-five for the first time, selling $36.9 billion of ABS, good for 8.3% of the market. Following a reorganization within the group to better align its bankers and traders, BofA increased its underwriting volume a whopping 35.8% from 2001 business.

Lehman Brothers finished in sixth place with $34.4 billion sold, besting Morgan Stanley, which sold $34.1 billion in 2002. With $19.8 billion all in the mortgage ABS arena Countrywide Securities closed the year as the eighth-leading underwriter overall, with 10.8% of the mortgage ABS market.

Banc One Capital Markets priced $15.8 billion of ABS supply and Bear Stearns rounds out the top 10, with $13 billion of ABS sold last year, good for 3.7% of the market.

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