Merrill Lynch again seized the top spot among U.S. CDO underwriters in the first half of the year, selling 27 deals to the market totaling some $22.2 billion and a 16.8% market share, according to data maintained by Thomson Financial. The investment bank managed to reclaim its position back after losing it in the first quarter to Citigroup Global Markets, a shift some speculated was the result of the loss of a handful of staff members led by former Merrill star Chris Ricciardi.

Merrill had enjoyed dominating its competitors for the overall highest percent of U.S. CDO market share in both 2004 and 2005. In fact, Merrill in 2005 increased the overall dollar volume of deals it underwrote by some 66% - a move that bought it more than a $6 billion cushion between itself and its nearest competitor by yearend. In the final quarter of 2005 alone, Merrill achieved its number one rank through an 18.6% market share amassed through 10 deals, totaling roughly $5.9 billion. But in the three months that ended March 31, Merrill had underwritten nine deals totaling $6.7 billion - only 14% below Citigroup but enough for it to drop to second place and a 14.9% market share.

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