Merrill Lynch leads the race among CDO underwriters through the first quarter, with nearly $6 billion of product placed, according to data maintained by Thomson Financial. Merrill's hold in the sectors is one of the more dominating in a market where underwriting is generally considered a commoditized product, as it controls 22.4% of the supply.

Merrill has already booked more than one-third of the business it did all last year, when it was the market leader with $15 billion in league table credit. Additionally, its 1Q05 volume is nearly double its underwriting volume over the same period a year ago, during which it led $3.5 billion - also tops in the market, with a comparable market share.

Morgan Stanley has led the second-most CDO paper to date, having sold $3.8 billion, good for 14.7% of the overall market. This represents a significant increase from its underwriting volume in 1Q04, when is ranked seventeenth overall with $160.9 million of proceeds and a 1% market share.

With roughly $3 billion of business, Citigroup Global Markets was the third-leading CDO underwriter in the first quarter, controlling 11.4% of the market. Over the same period last year, Citigroup ranked fifth overall, with $957 million of supply placed with investors.

Lehman Brothers and UBS are in a virtual tie for the fourth and fifth positions, with $2.6 billion of CDO product sold in the quarter and each with a 10.1% market share. While this is a drop in position for UBS, from second, 1Q05 volume is up 37.3% from the same period a year ago.

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