Credit Suisse, the largest investment bank in Switzerland, said its joint venture with mainland brokerage Founder Securities has started off with deals in the country's domestic debt capital markets but few are on offer in the equity markets. This is because foreign banks have had long-standing trouble in breaking domestic rivals' dominance in mainland equity markets. 'We have already participated in three bond deals in China's growing debt market. We will be involved in the equity market when the situation improves there and plan to work in the domestic [merger and acquisition] market leveraging our experience particularly in the financial institutions and resources sectors,' said Paul Calello, the chief executive for investment banking at Credit Suisse. The three bond sales raised 3.1 billion yuan (HK$3.52 billion) in the first quarter and included deals with Linan City Urban Construction, Shaoxing Water Group and Founder Group. That put the venture at No8 in China's domestic market league tables for corporate bonds in the first quarter, Bloomberg data shows. Citic Securities, with 13.45 billion yuan underwritten, topped the list. The mainland's initial public offering market has been closed since September after the securities regulator stopped approving share sale applications as markets spiralled downward. Hope that the situation might change was stalled early this month when the China Securities Regulatory Commission rejected an initial public offering from Ningbo QL Electronics in the first review since the ban was put in place. Initial public offering volumes plunged 78 per cent last year to 103.5 billion yuan. Regulators are also grappling with the effect on investor sentiment of the estimated 3.69 trillion yuan in locked-up shares that will become tradable this year. Despite the equity market troubles, China continues to press ahead with the development of its capital markets and hopes to launch listings on a start-up board in Shenzhen later this year, providing another avenue for underwriters to generate fees. Total investment banking fees for the first quarter are down 48.3 per cent to US$309.8 million from US$599.4 million in the first quarter of last year, according to Thomson Reuters/Freeman data. Credit Suisse got the green light from Beijing to move ahead with the joint venture with Hunan-based Founder Securities at the close of last year. 'Our early returns are very good and we are hoping to break even in our first year,' said Mr Calello. 'We have flexibility with this joint venture and are rotating talent both up into China and bringing people out of China so they can experience our global operations.' Credit Suisse has been one of the few banks that has better weathered the turmoil that has hit the investment banking industry, but still posted its biggest ever loss of 8.2 billion Swiss francs (HK$55.07 billion) last year. The current damage to the industry's reputation is just the latest difficulty that foreign investment banks have faced as they, like all foreign firms, try to gain access to China's growing economy. Morgan Stanley was the first bank in 1995, when it started China International Capital Corp with China Construction Bank Corp. The US investment bank struggled and ultimately failed to gain control of the venture and clashed with CICC management over business vision, compensation and whether the joint venture should work with foreign investment banks. Last year, Morgan Stanley tried to sell its one-third stake in CICC and start with a new partner but failed amid the global financial crisis and obstructions from CICC management. Goldman Sachs and mainland entrepreneur Fang Fenglei arranged the Gao Hua Securities joint venture but Mr Fang, considered instrumental to founding the firm, ended day-to-day involvement in the business to start a private equity fund. He remains chairman of the firm.