Morgan Stanley MidEast M&A head Fort departs

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Morgan Stanley's head of mergers and acquisitions for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is leaving the bank, three sources said, the latest in a string of high-level banking departures from the Gulf Arab region.

Peter Fort, who has been responsible for overseeing the US bank's M&A and restructuring business in the region since early 2011, ha s resigned, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter has not been made public.

Fort, an executive director based in Dubai, worked with the bank for nearly nine years advising some of its top clients in the region. It was not known whether Fort would join another lender or remain in the region.

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Many global banks have scaled back operations in the Gulf Arab region, amid intense pressure to cut costs and a slump in deal activity.

Morgan Stanley is among few banks in the region to have not undertaken any major cuts this year. It named Klaus Froehlich and Amr Diab as investment banking co-heads for MENA in early 2012, while Kamal Jabre, a veteran M&A banker, took charge as regional CEO in November 2011.

"They are a good bunch and have done some smart deals this year but the reality is that the market is not big enough for so many senior bankers. It has to shrink and that's what we have been seeing so far this year," one of the sources said.

Fees from advising clients on mergers and acquisitions in the Gulf Arab region declined 14 percent during the first nine months of 2012 to US$103.3m, Thomson Reuters data show, a far cry from the boom years of 2005-06.

Morgan Stanley was one of the advisers to telecom operator Etisalat in a block sale of its 9.1 percent stake in Indonesia's PT XL Axiata. The UAE telco got a US$117m gain on the deal.

The bank is currently advising French lender Societe Generale in the sale of its Egyptian arm to Qatar National Bank and is one of the banks involved in the state-backed merger of Abu Dhabi property firms Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate.

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