StormHarbour launches Madrid office with ex-Goldman hire

MADRID Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:43am EST

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MADRID (Reuters) - StormHarbour, a small investment bank specializing in the financial sector, has opened an office in Spain and hired a former top executive at Goldman Sachs as an adviser.

The firm said on Thursday that Juan del Rivero, a 23-year veteran of Goldman Sachs and formerly chairman for Spain and Portugal at the bank, would join as a senior adviser, working with Gonzalo Chocano, head of Spanish origination in its newly-launched Madrid base.

StormHarbour, established in 2009, focuses on sales and trading and capital markets advisory, working closely with financial institution clients. It is one of few such boutiques to set up shop in Madrid recently, with many advisory firms running Spanish teams from London instead.

"Southern Europe represents a significant opportunity for the firm and is a key region for our ambitious European growth strategy," said Antonio Cacorino, managing principal and co-founder of StormHarbour.

Spain's struggling bank sector, hit by a burst real estate bubble which led to a European bail out, has lured private equity firms and distressed specialists keen to pick up cheap assets. Deals have been slow to come together because sellers have flinched at the steep discounts sought by such buyers.

But investment bankers predict that transactions are set to pick up in 2013 because banks, forced to take big provisions on their rotten property assets, have become more comfortable with offloading assets.

Nationalized banks such as Bankia have also had to shift troubled real estate holdings into a so-called 'bad bank', to be sold later. Many other lenders are looking to shrink their balance sheets by shedding other types of loans too.

In December, Caixabank sold a property portfolio to Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, while Popular shed a consumer loan portfolio of just over 1 billion euros.

StormHarbour also helps firms analyze illiquid assets and has an asset management division. The investment bank hired about 40 people in 2012, at a time when many big rivals were retrenching. It took on former Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Eric Daniels as a senior adviser a year ago. It has around 170 employees across centers such as New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and London.

Del Rivero, who is joining the Spanish team, retired from Goldman in 2011 and has since held a number of advisory jobs with a law firm and an asset management group, among others.

(Reporting by Sarah White; editing by Jesus Aguado and Jane Merriman)

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