Nichol Bakalar is no longer with Wachovia Securities. Bakalar, who joined Wachovia in mid-2002, was a director in the structured products group. She reported to group head Brian Lancaster. Before her stint at Wachovia, Bakalar was head of asset-backed securities research at Deutsche Bank, a position she also held at Barclays Capital before joining Deustche.

Last week, Royal Bank of Scotland Group acquired a $2.3 billion credit card portfolio from People's Bank. The development coincides with forecasts that this year larger players will acquire smaller portfolios. "Now RBS has a toe-hold in the industry," noted Citgroup's Vice President Douglas Lipton. RBSG reportedly paid a $360 million, or 15.5%, premium for the portfolio, which has approximately 1.1 million customer accounts nation-wide. The portfolio is predominantly prime and super-prime in credit quality terms, according to RBSG.

Capital One Financial Corporation has announced that Catherine West will formally assume the title of executive vice president and president of U.S. Card for the company. She was appointed to this position on an interim basis in April 2003. West reports to Capital One Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard D. Fairbank. West joined Capital One in March 2000 as executive vice president of U.S. Consumer Operations where she directed all of Capital One call center operations.

Giovanni Lazzeri has been appointed a director on the Societe Generale European Securitization team. Lazzeri, based out of the bank's Milan office, will focus on Italian structures and will report to Jean-Francois Despoux, who is head of European securitizations.

Dennis Kraft has left his position with Conning Asset Management where he headed trading and credit at the firm. Kraft had moved to Swiss Re-owned Conning from The Hartford Investment Manage- ment Company (HIMCO), as reported by ASR in its 01/07/02 issue.

Wachovia Securities has moved fixed-income researcher Rich Gordon to a new position in the group. In his new role, he will be analyzing relative value weighting among various fixed-income products, including ABS and MBS. He continues to report to managing director Curtis Arlich, head of Wachovia's fixed-income group.

Lehman Brothers plans to add a floating-rate component to its ABS Index over the next year, said Lehman ABS research head David Heike on yesterday's research roundtable. Adding floating-rate bonds, which currently make up roughly 80% of the primary ABS market, "will correct a lot of what's wrong with the Lehman ABS index," Heike said. Merrill Lynch's Theresa O'Neil, speaking on the same panel, added that Merrill's Index does contain a floating-rate component.

The latest offshoot of the recent Parmalat fiasco saw Italy move ahead with its plan to develop a Financial Services Authority (FSA)-styled regulatory body that would oversee supervision of corporate bond issuance from the bank of Italy. The Authority for the Protection of Savings, as it is tentatively called, will replace Consob, which is currently Italy's stock market regulator.

Credit card ABS issuance is expected to reach $68 billion in 2004, a slight increase over the $67 billion witnessed in 2003, according to research from Fitch Ratings. Stronger performance in the U.S. prime credit sector will be offset somewhat by stagnant subprime trends; however, overall consumer credit quality is expected to increase, the agency said. Prime chargeoffs rose for the first time in four months during the November collection period to 6.7%, but have since showed signs of stabilization.

Commercial and multifamily mortgage originations surged last year to a record $116 billion, reported the Mortgage Bankers Association. The figure is up from $86.4 billion the previous year. Commercial/MF originations for 4Q03 also set a quarterly record with a total of $37.9 billion, rising from $7.9 billion recorded the year before. MBA chief economist Douglas Duncan attributed the surge to the strong relative value of real estate as an investment, abundant capital, low interest rates and the quick economic recovery fueling loan demand. He added that the commercial real estate finance business is expected to remain strong into 2004, considering the MBA's forecast of solid economic growth and moderate increases in credit costs. The rise in commercial/MF volume in 2003 was recorded across all property and investor types, the MBA said.

JPMorgan Securities said that there are six fixed-rate CMBS conduit deals in line for February. This should reach $7.7 billion in issuance. Analysts expect 1Q04 issuance to reach $19 billion, which is about 30% more compared to the same quarter last year. The $19 billion total would be mostly comprised of fixed-rate transactions and a couple of floating-rate deals.

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