Citigroup bulks up to tap private equity rebound

Citigroup has poached UBS' co-head of private equity Aidan Allen to lead its own private equity team.

Citigroup has poached UBS' co-head of private equity Aidan Allen to lead its own private equity team.

It is a sign the US-based investment bank believes there will be an upswing in private equity activity this year. It comes as Citi orchestrates one of the largest mergers and acquisitions transactions of 2013 - ADM's high stakes $3.4 billion acquisition of Graincorp - and continues the firm's efforts to rebuild its senior leadership team after the purge of 2008.

Tony Osmond, Citi's head of corporate and investment banking, pulled off the coup. It is his most significant hiring of the last few years and will be seen as a direct challenge to Citi's competitors.

In an internal memo circulating in the bank on Friday, Mr Osmond said Mr Allen would be working closely with former Goldman Sachs banker Nick Bagot and himself.

They plan to have Mr Allen driving new mergers and acquisitions deals and transactions across equities, fixed income and the corporate and investment bank.

"Aidan's appointment, together with the four hires John McLean and I announced across banking and CMO earlier this week, continues our momentum in attracting the very highest-calibre team members," Mr Osmond wrote to colleagues.

Mr Allen is seen as one of the best talents in Australia's investment banking world, placing sixth in the best investment bankers category in the East Coles Best Investment Bank survey 2012. That same year, Mr Osmond ranked fifth.

It comes as Macquarie Bank recorded a pre-tax profit of $1.4 billion for the financial year ending March 31, beating market expectations by 20 per cent.

But analysts have warned the operating environment remains challenging for investment banks.

"Particularly given excess liquidity in the northern hemisphere and Japan, which is likely to put pressure on bank margins and the ability to compete," Nomura analyst Victor German wrote last week.

Mr Allen will start at Citi in November. He first has to take six months "gardening leave".

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