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Calyon catastrophe for SocGen’s ED team?

The smart money is on Calyon as the eventual owner of SocGen’s equity derivatives business. It’s not great news for senior managers at SG.

If, and it is still an if, SocGen succumbs to the charms of one of its suitors, the strong likelihood is that it will land itself a Gallic partner.

According to the Telegraph, the French state is ready to castrate beaux of any other nationality, and both Calyon (according to The Times) and BNP Paribas (according to the
FT and just about everywhere else) are already in a state of semi-undress.

The eventual solution is unlikely to be that simple, however. Insiders say that if BNP buys into its French rival, it’s likely to walk away with the retail banking arm, but not the corporate and investment bank (and therefore the derivatives business), where the overlaps would be too massive to make sense, and the purchase would be blocked on competition grounds.

Step in Calyon. “The scenario that everyone’s talking about is that SG will be divided up between BNP and Calyon, with Calyon getting the corporate and investment bank,” says one headhunter, who specializes in the equity derivatives market.

Jeremy Kemp, of equity derivatives headhunter Jeremy Kemp International, agrees: “Dividing SG between BNP Paribas (retail network) and Calyon (investment bank) could make business sense and would probably suit the French government.”

Last weekend, The Times reported that Calyon is angling for this precise scenario.

Litzler limbering up?

What would it mean for SG’s derivatives supremos? Senior managers are liable to blanch at the prospect.

The reason for their uneasiness is, in two words, Marc Litzler. Calyon’s head of investment banking, a former banker at SocGen and chum of Jean-Pierre Mustier, Litzler left after an apparent falling-out with his buddy and may choose to use control of SocGen’s corporate and investment bank to wreak revenge.

“The senior SG lieutenants who ousted Marc Litzler would probably leave immediately,” says Kemp. “But below that level Calyon could really look at keeping the majority of the equity derivatives group.”

It might not happen

Not everyone is sure that SocGen will succumb in the first place, however.

“SocGen has been talked about as a takeover target for years,” says John Raymond , an analyst at CreditSights. “I’m not convinced that any of this will happen.”

And in the meantime, SG’s derivatives staff aren’t said to be enjoying their sudden popularity. “People I know who said they hadn’t spoken to a headhunter in ages are now getting three or four calls a day,” says Kemp. “They’re getting pretty irritated.”

Comments (2)

  1. It would make strategic sense for BNPP to be involved in a takeover if it was to walk away with the retail network, thereby strengthening its domestic position and collecting many sought after deposits (given liquidity crisis). On the other hand, I am not sure that Calyon would benefit as much if it was to buy the CIB business of SG. Calyon is currently struggling due to the subprime fallout and in much need of cash, which is being supplied by its parent. As such, I doubt that its ultimate owners -the regional banks – would be very happy to increase the group’s investment banking activities, given recent troubles, and the fact that buying the CIB business would alter significantly the business model of Credit Agricole SA – away from safe boring retail banking.

  2. As a former investment banker banker at Paribas Capital Markets in London, I once asked the French head of M&A whether there was commercial logic in a comlex M&A deal. His Gallic response was “if the deal has zest..then why not?!” Applying similar logic, the prospective deal(s) does not contain much “zest”. Squeeze me some real juice from SocGen and prove there is zest in it. Management thought they did good by neutralising some USD50bn of simple positions and suffering a relatively “small” loss, but think again of what the coming punishment could be like given the state of the financial markets globally.

    Master of the Universe Reply

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