By sharp contrast with the previous three years, a dramatic exodus of LatAm liquidity sank many boats in 2008, exposing some old winners as losers. Cap Cana went belly up, Cemex cracked and the financial sector was ripped apart by the most turbulent capital markets times in living memory.

The field of contenders for our 24 awards categories was much less crowded, though no less hotly contested.

Winners were easier to spot than in recent years, mainly because execution is strained by lack of cash and the buyside returning to the rigorous analysis it appeared to have dropped. The sell side's role is much less commoditized, and issuers need look only as far as Brazil's January sovereign issue for reasons to heed after market performance and be cautious on tenor, structure and price.

After an extensive analysis period drawing on insight and analysis from the leading investors, issuers and bankers, LatinFinance announces the authoritative Deals of the Year results. Among issuers, Uruguay and Gerdau proved their mettle, while Mexico, Braskem, BNDES and new issuer OGX also stood out.

At institutions, it was particularly hard to isolate those that will still be relevant after the banking crisis has fully played out. HSBC finally broke through as the bond house of choice, BNP Paribas stole Citi's loan laurels and Credit Suisse remained dominant elsewhere in investment banking.

Even in such rotten markets - and a presumed rush to plain vanilla - issuers have not been afraid to innovate.

AGSA's teak tree securitization and IDEAL's $700 million toll road ABS are examples of what you can still do if you try. In response to creativity from the State of Mexico, we have added a new category - Best Sub-Sovereign Financing - that we hope will be fought over throughout the region for years to come.

The key to success over the next 12 months is being nimble and energetic enough to reinvent businesses for a radically different environment. This will include bankers scouring the planet for liquidity and getting creative with distribution. Issuers generally need to devise solid long term plans that can keep investors coming back.

This year looks set to be just as tempestuous, providing fresh opportunity for the men to mark themselves out from the boys. Pitfalls abound as LatAm capital markets evolve through their biggest test to date.


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