SMITH Barney is eliminating 25 Hong Kong investment banker jobs in a move that will virtually stamp out its corporate finance department. The department lasted less than a year and set up one major deal. In January last year, with 17 investment bankers in the Hong Kong office, Smith Barney Shearson chairman Robert Greenhill said: 'In investment banking, Asia is the first place I am putting resources. 'By Asia, I mean China especially . . . Hong Kong is not a satellite office to the New York headquarters.' About 25 professionals will be affected over the next two months. Most will be offered jobs with Smith Barney in New York or other offices, according to Joe Josephson, managing director. 'If they want to stay in Hong Kong, they'll have to leave,' he said. He said that only a 'very small number' of corporate finance staff would remain in the Hong Kong office working closely with the direct investment team. 'Technically, there may even be no people in the corporate finance team, but there will be people from the team around,' he said. Mr Josephson joined Smith Barney in October 1993 from Morgan Stanley and set up the operation with Lin Erh-fei, a former Goldman Sachs staffer. 'The team was just about complete by last April,' said Mr Josephson last night. Smith Barney's strategy here was 'having capital to put in along with a corporate finance client,' according to Mr Greenhill. The $600 million war chest put together by Greenwich Capital Partners, Smith Barney's fund management arm, exists, according to Mr Josephson. But he refused to comment on whether any had actually been placed in investments. Smith Barney's only major deal in the region was the floating of the Qing Ling Motors issue in August last year. The offer of five million shares in Hong Kong and internationally, raised $1.04 billion. The deal was oversubscribed and soared 32 per cent on its debut, having been priced at about nine times its prospective earnings. Mr Josephson's team was also the co-lead manager on the Indosat share offering and Tripolita, another Indonesian deal. Mr Josephson claimed that despite the retreat, 'Smith Barney remains committed to the region'. He said that the decision was not taken on Smith Barney's views on Asia. 'This decision was based on our ability to build a business with scale here. Not everyone is a winner,' he said. 'This is how American investment banks work.' Mr Josephson will return to the United States. 'I can generate more revenue in America this year than I can in Hong Kong,' he said. About 70 colleagues will remain. Smith Barney is to keep open its broking, foreign exchange, fixed income and direct investment sections in Hong Kong.