Lehman Brothers, which finished as the third-leading underwriter last year, is the leading U.S. ABS underwriter through the first quarter of 2005, according to data maintained by Thomson Financial. With $23.3 billion of domestic ABS supply sold through March 31, Lehman has a slight $1.7 billion lead over its closest rival as the 2005 race comes out of the gate. Lehman controls roughly 10.3% of the U.S. market, according to Thomson. Over the same period last year, Lehman was the second-leading underwriter, with $18.7 billion in proceeds sold and a 10% market share.

The biggest surprise is not which bank sits atop the league tables, however, but where perennial leader Citigroup Global Markets sits - in eighth. Last year's leading underwriter, and year-end leader for four of the last five years, is roughly $6.5 billion off the pace set by Lehman and has seven competitors stacked ahead of it after the first three months of 2005.

Despite the challenges facing its embattled chief executive, Morgan Stanley is within striking distance of the top spot, with roughly $21.6 billion of ABS product sold, good for 9.6% of the market in the first three months of the year. This is a jump from 1Q04, when it ranked tenth with $9.9 billion sold and a 5.3% market share.

Bear Stearns sits in third place with $19.4 billion of league table credit and 8.6% of the market, to fill out the top three. It is also a significant increase in business for Bear, which was the eleventh leading ABS underwriter at the same point last year and controlled 4.7% of the market.

The next five positions are where things get interesting, as just $1 billion separates fourth-place Credit Suisse First Boston, with $17.7 billion, and eighth-place Citigroup. In between sits Countrywide Securities, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank Securities, respectively, each with between $17.6 billion and $17.3 billion.

RBS Greenwich Capital, with $13.3 billion, is currently in ninth place and Banc of America Securities rounds out the top 10. One notable underwriter found just out of the top 10 is JPMorgan Securities, which is currently ranked eleventh with $10.1 billion, just $700 million out of the top 10.

Copyright 2005 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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