Korea First Bank (KFB) has selected three supposedly less-established firms - BNP Paribas, Calyon Securities and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) - to jointly underwrite its third cross-border mortgage-backed deal.

The involvement of RBS came as a surprise to bankers at rival shops, some of whom were unaware the bank was even pitching. Sources confirmed that 16 banks ended up bidding, rather than the previously reported 12 (see ASR 9/20/04).

With such a lengthy list, KFB was expecting to attract some competitive bids. A source at one of the winning firms acknowledged as much, adding that his firm had submitted "a very aggressive pitch."

Since Razi Amin and his team have been slowly but surely building up an Asian ABS franchise in the past few years, BNP's inclusion was not altogether unexpected. But Greg Park, who recently left Credit Suisse First Boston to head Calyon's non-Japan Asia securitization group, (see ASR 6/14/04) and Richard Lamb, who fulfils the same role at RBS, will be especially pleased to advise on such a high profile Korean mandate.

Lamb left ING for RBS in March 2003, following his boss John Mullins to set up a new Tokyo-based Asian securitization group focused on Japan, Korea and Australia. Given testy market conditions last year, progress was initially slow but has gathered momentum in 2004.

RBS recently established a A$5 billion ($3.56 billion) asset-backed commercial paper conduit - George Street Finance - in Australia, making it one of the country's largest ABCP sponsors. The bank also led an A$2.3 billion ($1.6 billion) multi-currency MBS for InterStar Millennium.

When ING pulled out of the Japanese securitization market, RBS took over its business and says it is working on several transactions. Meanwhile, although KFB is believed to be RBS' first Korean securitization mandate, behind the scenes the bank has established warehousing facilities for issuers. These include a $100 million loan for Samsung Card, a regular cross-border issuer in 2001 and 2002 and a client of Lamb's when he was at ING.

RBS is also looking to establish a representative office in Seoul before the end of the year.

KFB completed its first international MBS in April, a $499.6 million deal via UBS (see ASR 4/5/04), and followed up in August, with a $325 million private placement, structured and purchased by Merrill Lynch.

Copyright 2004 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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