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Canada's Laurentian Bank launches energy banking team in Calgary

| CALGARY, Alberta

CALGARY, Alberta Oct 18 Laurentian Bank of Canada, the country's seventh-biggest lender, is setting up an energy investment banking team in Calgary, Alberta's oil capital, a bank official said on Tuesday.

Wade Felesky, Head of Energy at Laurentian Bank Securities said Montreal-based Laurentian Bank had been seeking an opportunity to open an energy-focused banking arm for years and the prolonged slump in Canadian oil and gas offered a chance to jump into the industry at a low point in the cycle.

"We have been in a protracted depressed commodity environment for longer than we would like and what that has allowed is the opportunity to get good people and allowed them (Laurentian) to look at this from a counter-cyclical standpoint," Felesky said in an interview. "It's the hallmark of their success historically."

The energy team Laurentian Bank Securities will be a subsidiary of the parent bank and Felesky expects to hire around 10 people between now and the end of 2017.

Felesky, previously a managing director at Calgary-based GMP Securities, said the team would focus on junior and mid-sized oil and gas companies, which have been struggling to secure capital and credit during the more than two-year crude price downturn.

Laurentian Bank Securities will also offer a merger and acquisition advisory service, a sector that Felesky said he hoped would pick up further, although he declined to offer any prediction on the direction of oil prices.

There have been 63 merger and acquisition transactions in Canada's energy sector so far this year, according to the latest figures from ATB financial, compared with 90 in all of 2015 and 151 in 2014.

The expansion by Laurentian Bank is likely to be welcomed in Calgary, which has been hit hard by the global crude slump and seen tens of thousands of job losses since mid-2014. The bank already has commercial lending, real estate, infrastructure and agricultural banking operations in the city.

Unlike its bigger rivals, Laurentian Bank until as recently as the second quarter had no direct exposure to the oil and gas industry. Many lenders saw profits crimped in recent quarters as energy clients struggled to repay loans. (Editing by G Crosse)

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