TD Goes ‘Extremely Local’ in Quebec Investment Banking Push
(Bloomberg) -- To lead investment banking in Quebec, Toronto-Dominion Bank has turned to a francophone with an engineering degree who once sold tractors to dairy farmers.
Abe Adham is about three months into his new job as head of investment banking in Quebec for TD Securities, succeeding Martine Irman as she prepares to retire. He’s relying on “an extremely local presence” to win more business from Quebec companies in what he sees as a very active mergers-and-acquisitions market poised to surpass last year’s levels.
Quebec companies were involved in 309 announced acquisitions valued at $24.1 billion in the first half of the year, putting them on pace to surpass the 655 deals valued at $39.1 billion for all of 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Adham said the economic environment is strong and he’s seeing “lots of activity and positivity” in Quebec.
“It’s going to be a very strong year,” Adham, 43, said in an interview at his Montreal office. “The Quebec economy is doing well and companies here continue to do well and, whether it’s private or public, the mood is actually great.”
Adham joined TD Securities in 2007 during the firm’s build-out of its Montreal office. Born and raised in Paris by parents who fled Lebanon’s civil war in the 1970s, he came to Canada in the mid-1990s to study engineering at McGill University. He joined tractor maker John Deere after graduation, and initially toiled in Saskatchewan before relocating to Quebec’s Eastern Townships to manage his own dealership while pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at Universite de Montreal. He later went overseas to attend London Business School for a masters in finance, before returning to Montreal and joining TD.
TD Securities has about 125 full-time Montreal employees in investment and corporate banking as well as trading, built up over a dozen years to chase business and build relationships with companies in the French-speaking province.
“It’s important to have boots on the ground here,” Adham said. “Quebec is a tightly knit business community, and so we’re there, we’re present and we’re involved.”
Adham is bullish about Quebec’s economic prospects and TD’s dealmaking opportunities as companies outgrow the local market and look beyond for expansion, a situation he said is stimulating acquisitions and financing activity.
Quebec’s economy outperformed all other Canadian provinces last year with estimated growth of 2.6%, a gain that outpaced even Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and its economic engine, for a second straight year.
“The moods of management and boards are quite positive,” Adham said. “People are looking to grow and we’ve seen them try to grow outside the boundaries of Quebec and Canada -- some are growing in Europe, some are growing in the United States.”
Acquisitive companies include convenience-store owner Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., pension-fund manager Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and CGI Inc., an information-technology services firm. Quebec is home to other giants, in industries from communications and infrastructure to transportation and energy, including Air Canada, the country’s largest airline; media firm Quebecor Inc.; and engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., as well as independent power producers Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Boralex Inc.
Infrastructure and renewable energy are among the industries in Quebec busiest for M&A at the moment, Adham said, though he’s also seeing heightened activity in areas including communications, food and agriculture, and technology.
Montreal also has a thriving technology scene that could draw investment-banking interest. Lightspeed POS Inc. in March raised C$240 million ($184 million) in Canada’s biggest technology initial public offering since 2010. Unity Technologies, which makes gaming software, plans to add 450 jobs in the city, also home to offices of game developers including Ubisoft Entertainment SA, Square Enix Holdings Co.’s Eidos subsidiary and Fortnite creator Epic Games Inc.
“Tech companies in Quebec right now are getting a lot of attention and a lot of money from large institutions and pension funds,” he said. “I expect that to continue.”
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