December 20, 2017 / 2:20 PM / 6 months ago

Emerging market dealmaking fees set for record $20 billion year

* Bond issuance fees rise with record debt sales

* Bankers primed for expected $100 bln Saudi Aramco listing

By Marc Jones

LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Investment bankers working on emerging market dealmaking will reap record fees in 2017 thanks to unprecedented levels of debt issuance and stock market flotations across the developing world.

Fed by cheap global borrowing costs and a blistering rally in asset prices, EM fees will this year top $20 billion for the first time, data compiled by Thomson Reuters shows.

China alone has contributed around $12 billion. Bond sale fees have hit a record and though mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are down slightly, emerging markets' share of the global dealmaking fees pie will stay near last year's record 20 percent.

"The fees have been fair because the volumes are up, although you are also seeing a larger number of people competing in this market," said Standard Chartered's regional head of Americas and European capital markets, Spencer Maclean.

Bumper issuance from Saudi Arabia and Argentina, debuts from poor "frontier" markets such as Tajikistan, and a flood of Chinese corporate bonds have all contributed to record $670.5 billion of EM debt sales.

This deluge has earned debt bankers over $7.2 billion, the Reuters data shows -- up from just over $7 billion last year and more than four times the $1.7 billion they were getting before the financial crisis a decade ago.

Fees from emerging stock market flotations are set to be around $1 billion below the record $7.5 billion earned in 2007 and the $3.2 billion from M&A deals hasn't broken any records either.

But initial public offerings (IPO) were already at an annual record high of 784 in early December and they have continued to trickle in.

"Clearly the equity markets have been very constructive," said JP Morgan's head of equity capital markets (ECM) for Europe Middle East and Africa, Achintya Mangla.

"(S&P500) volatility is the lowest it has been in 50 years and that, combined with strong company earnings, has been conducive for IPOs."

THE BIG ONE

Notable IPOs have included toy retailer Detsky Mir which in February became Russia's highest profile float since Western sanctions were introduced in 2014.

This month, Abu Dhabi's ADNOC Distribution was the first Gulf energy asset to be privatised since oil prices tumbled.

Bankers are hoping this paves the way for the big one next year - Saudi Arabia's planned $100 billion listing of 5 percent of oil giant Aramco.

Banks already working as advisers - JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and HSBC - are seen as front-runners for key roles, with the possible addition of a small number of other banks, sources have told Reuters.

"The Saudi Aramco IPO is expected for as early as next year. We are looking at numbers (size of float) that are far in excess of anything we have ever seen before in equity capital markets (ECM)," Mizuho's head of EMEA ECM origination Alexandre Zaluski said.

But even without Aramco, 2018 should be busy.

Governments, companies and other bond issuers are all expected to keep tapping debt markets to lock in current low interest rates.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) expects Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait to account for $44 billion of a total $140 billion net sovereign issuance in 2018.

JPMorgan sees $442 billion in emerging corporate debt sales next year, down slightly from this year's $470 billion but still well above 2016's $318.3 billion.

Asia, especially China, should again account for a growing share of fees, bankers say.

Additional reporting by Claire Milhench; editing by John Stonestreet

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