U.S. investment bank Lazard Ltd’s most senior banker in Dubai, Ali Asghar, has left to set up his own emerging markets-focused boutique firm, three sources familiar with the matter said.
Asghar, who headed Lazard’s Dubai office as a director, joined the bank in 2007 and focused on mergers and acquisitions advisory, restructuring and capital raising in the Gulf Arab region.
Global investment banks scaled back their Middle Eastern operations in 2012 due to a dearth of deals and pressure to cut costs from larger centres like London and New York.
Deal activity has revived in 2013 but most banks are reluctant to fill senior vacancies.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Asghar’s new firm – “Emerging Circle” – would be based in the region.
Asghar’s departure effectively means Lazard has no senior bankers in Dubai and will rely on staff in London and other major centres to execute and originate deals, the sources said.
In the Middle East, Lazard also has an office in Riyadh for investment banking functions.
One of the sources said Asghar left Lazard in July.
A spokesman for Lazard in London declined to comment on Asghar’s departure or the firm’s staffing in the region. Asghar could not be reached by telephone.
Lazard is currently advising French media firm Vivendi on the sale of its majority stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom.
The firm also advised Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, in negotiations with Glencore last year when the fund threatened to derail its merger with Xstrata unless the terms were improved.