Hong Kong companies raised US$5.38 billion through 22 deals in the first quarter, reflecting active corporate borrowing to take advantage of the low interest rate environment. Basis Point , an Asian debt market publication, said the amount, 6.4 per cent lower than the US$5.75 billion raised in the same period last year, belied a more buoyant syndicated loan market. Last year's figure was distorted by a number of airport-related financing deals. Notable among those was the HK$8.8 billion financing by the Airport Authority. This year, the interest margin was reduced as lending banks became more comfortable with 'Hong Kong risk'. 'Lots of banks have tried to offer financing on very attractive terms,' said Stewart Man, spokesman for basiSfield, the database from which Basis Point drew its information. Fierce competition among banks helped push down corporate borrowing costs. Some corporates took advantage of these lower borrowing costs to refinance their outstanding debts. Major deals in the first quarter included the HK$8 billion Mass Transit Railway Corp loan for its residential property development in Tai Kok Tsui. Cheung Kong Finance also tapped HK$3.9 billion during this period. HSBC Investment Bank Asia topped the table for co-ordinating the most deals in the quarter. It was involved in the highest level of three deals, and helped in raising HK$575.3 million. Second was Hang Seng Finance and third BA Asia. If the loan amount was divided equally among all banks with the title of arranger or higher, a different league order emerged. Sanwa Bank led the pack with seven deals, raising US$407.5 million, while Wayfoong Shipping Services came second with one deal worth US$360 million. By such calculation, HSBC Investment Bank only ranked 10th and Hang Seng Finance fifth. Basis Point believed the novel league table using 'co-ordinators' should become the new benchmark for measuring banking performance. Mr Man said the amount raised could have been higher. 'Several large deals launched in the first quarter have not yet been signed,' he said.