(Bloomberg) — UBS Group AG is effectively closing its on-the-ground dealmaking and advisory operations in the Middle East and North Africa, according to people familiar with the matter.
The division’s last senior banker in the region tendered his resignation recently, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. A decision to retreat from in-person operations was taken in recent weeks.
Instead, bankers and specialists from other jurisdictions such as the US and UK will fly into the region to handle deals, they said. The Swiss lender will retain a local presence through other divisions, including its global trading and wealth units, where it has continued to hire.
A spokesperson for UBS declined to comment.
Departures at the investment banking team picked up after Michael Cleanis, a managing director and head of global banking for the region, left the firm in March to join Abu Dhabi wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co. He had spent 12 years with UBS in Dubai, mainly covering the region’s sovereign wealth funds.
Read More: Top UBS Middle East Investment Banker Set to Join Mubadala
The Swiss lender has been scaling down investment banking operations in several emerging markets including India and South Africa. UBS restructured its dealmaking teams globally in 2019 when it elevated Javier Oficialdegui and Ros Stephenson to co-lead investment banking, which includes advising on corporate takeovers and raising funds through stock and bond sales.
The pullback in the Middle East and North Africa comes as some banks beef up their in-person presence to capture increased deal activity. Investment banking activity has been picking up in the region, spurred by a raft of initial public offerings in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.
A surge in oil prices at the start of 2022, as well as increased investor inflows, led to a flurry of listings in the Persian Gulf, which notched up its best first half on record for stock-market debuts.
The Swiss bank has advised on several major deals in the region and worked alongside other banks as an adviser on the public listing of Dubai’s Tecom Group earlier this year. In 2016, it also advised on the merger of Abu Dhabi’s two largest lenders to create First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC and the public listing of Dubai’s Tecom Group.
UBS saw revenues at the investment-banking unit decline 19% in the three months to September amid a broader slump in deal-making and equities. Advisory revenue fell 58%.
(Adds Middle East had best first half on stock market debuts in eighth paragraph)
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