Rob Firth Joins BoA Merrill’s European Buyout Team

LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) has poached Rob Firth from Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) to head its European team advising private equity firms, as it bets on a pickup in global buyouts.

Firth will become head of Merrill’s so-called financial sponsors group for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in August, the bank said on Thursday. He takes over from Fotis Hasiotis, who will remain a senior banker in the same team, a spokeswoman said.

Merrill said buyout firms were some of its most important clients. “As sponsors’ influence around the world continues to grow, our global footprint will enable us to capture even greater share with this critical segment of the market,” Karim Assef, global head of financial sponsors, said in a statement.

Firth has spent more than a decade advised private equity firms, the bank added. He was named head of EMEA financial sponsors at Deutsche Bank last year.

Firth will report to Assef and to Christian Meissner, who will join the firm in July as head of EMEA investment banking.

Thomson Reuters data show takeovers by private equity firms plunged 43.5 percent last year to $134 billion, the lowest since 2002, as scarce and costly debt financing curbed deals.

But bankers and private equity executives are starting to predict a return of large leveraged buyouts (LBOs), with Blackstone Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman saying $10 to $15 billion deals could be possible again.

Last week Merrill hired Bruce Mackenzie, also of Deutsche, as head of high-yield capital markets for the region.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment. (Reporting by Quentin Webb; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)