YOUNG investment bank Wheelock NatWest is increasing its regional presence to brace for a deregulation trend that is expected to lead to more deals, according to managing director Meocre Li. Five deals were in the pipeline, and moves into the region, particularly in China and Indonesia, would build an Asian network, Mr Li said. The corporate finance and securities sections would remain the main income earners for the group. Mr Li said the bank had to focus on large, profit-generating deals. These were generally worth about $200 million. Wheelock NatWest charged 3 per cent per job, he said, in line with competitors. 'It would be quite good if we got five to 10 deals a year.' Wheelock NatWest is acting as co-lead underwriter for two forthcoming H-share listings in Hong Kong, Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway (a dual listing in Hong Kong and the United States) and Guangdong Kelon Electrical Holding Co. It also is working for a red chip listing candidate. Other deals underway include a foreign company buying 20 per cent in a B-share company, and a 50 per cent disposal of a stocking company with operations in Hong Kong and China. Wheelock Natwest is a 50-50 joint venture formed at the end of 1994 between Wheelock and Co and British-based NatWest Markets when market sentiment was ebbing in the wake of a series of interest rate rises. For the most of 1995, it recruited staff, mainly from rival houses. Mr Li said that with 140 staff in Hong Kong, recruitment here was largely finished. 'It is a people business and we have put in a lot of effort to build the team. We have this focus and outlook in Asia that should lend us an edge over US or European houses,' he said. The first deal was completed one year after founding. By the end of this year, a 200-strong team in Asia is anticipated. However, new listings in Hong Kong have slumped. There were only 26 last year, compared to 53 in 1994 and 68 in 1993. Investment banks have to go regional to widen the net for deals. Mr Li said the bank was building a presence in a number of Asian countries in the wake of an anticipated surge of deregulations and privatisations. Wheelock NatWest had found an 'influential' joint venture partner in Indonesia, he said, and talks were in final stages. It is setting up representative offices in Taiwan and the Philippines this year, and operations in Singapore. Staff have been recruited in Thailand and Malaysia. In China, the bank shares NatWest Capitals' Shanghai office. Mr Li said a professional from the Hong Kong team would be sent to Beijing later in the year. The bank is setting up a China Fund to invest in the food industry, and a Taiwan manufacturer and a mainland distributor have been lined up. Wheelock NatWest has $2 billion under management. 'We want to emphasis that we are not an in-house investment bank and are building our own identity,' Mr Li said.