By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - BNP Paribas was named "Bank of the Year" by International Financing Review on Friday, recognising France's biggest bank for its aggressive moves to boost capital and liquidity.
BNP was credited by IFR's editorial team, which picks the winners, with managing to deleverage, strengthen its capital and secure access to funding, all while shifting its strategy to better integrate its corporate and investment banks.
IFR is a Thomson Reuters publication.
BNP has spent most of 2012 selling assets and cutting costs, including staff, to beef up its balance sheet and wean itself off volatile dollar funding markets.
Despite choppy market conditions, the long-running euro debt crisis and a lack of investor appetite for euro bank assets, BNP held back from selling at fire-sale prices and now has one of the highest Basel III core capital ratios in its peer group, at 9.5 percent.
"In these challenging times for the financial services industry, BNP Paribas successfully completed an ambitious adaptation plan for the new regulatory environment," the bank's chief executive Laurent Bonnafe said in a statement.
Although BNP's broad euro zone footprint and its significant exposure to Italy via subsidiary BNL have been a cause for investor concern, the bank has done a lot to slash its portfolio of euro-zone sovereign bonds. It has cut its exposure to Greek, Irish and Portuguese government debt by 80 percent since June 2011 and its exposure to Italian government debt by 43 percent.
While it is still focused on cutting costs, after completing a year-long deleveraging programme BNP now wants to regain lost market share.
The awards, to be handed out in January, are among the most prized in the bank industry.
Deutsche Bank, which was involved in three of the U.S. government's sell downs in insurer AIG this year, was named top equity house. It also took the prize for top bond house.
IFR awarded JP Morgan loan house of the year for its push in cross-border lending and boosting its platform at a time when others were pulling back. The bank was also named top for high-yield bonds.
Barclays was awarded structured finance house of the year, while Credit Suisse was named top bank for derivatives. HSBC was awarded the prize for emerging markets bond house.
Blackstone, involved in more than 60 deals during 2012 including advising on Greece's debt restructuring, was named top restructuring advisor.
U.S. bank Wells Fargo was awarded issuer of the year, recognised for a disciplined funding strategy that saw it take advantage of any opportunity to reduce debt stress on its balance sheet.