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Beleaguered Pros Still Heading to Florida
Asset Backed Alert, Harrison Scott Publications Inc. (October 12, 2007)

More than 2,000 securitization professionals have signed up for an industry-wide conference that Information Management Network is hosting next month, despite the havoc of the recent credit crunch.

While some market players have their doubts about the projections, spokeswoman Erica Kirwan said it's likely that the turnout for IMN's 13th annual "ABS East" gathering will easily exceed last year's headcount of 2,300.

The Euromoney unit's four-day summit commences Nov. 4 at the J.W. Marriott resort in Orlando. The event was moved there last year, after becoming too large for the Boca Raton, Fla., hotel where it took place for many years before that.

But the conference will return to South Florida next year, this time in Miami Beach.

IMN officials are still trying to nail down a venue for that event, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19-22. While Orlando offers plentiful hotel accommodations, meeting space and offsite attractions, many conferencegoers have indicated a preference for a more upscale location near the ocean, Kirwan said.

The shift will give IMN two annual gatherings in Miami.
The conference producer's separate "Spring ABS" event took place five months ago at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. It replaced a much-bigger winter conference in Arizona that was once the largest annual gathering of its kind in the U.S. - until the American Securitization Forum took hold with a competing desert powwow to Las Vegas in 2006.

Like IMN, the trade group has said attendance for its "ASF 2008" conference is growing at roughly the same pace as it was a year ago. More than 6,700 people ultimately registered for the 2007 forum.

ASF's next big conference is scheduled for Feb. 3-6 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. It will kick off on Super Bowl Sunday with a football-themed party that's expected to draw more than 2,000 attendees. Even more are expected to turn out for dinner the next night, when Vegas headliner Blue Man Group will perform.

The projected tally for IMN's upcoming Orlando conference, meanwhile, has industry players surprised - and, in some cases, skeptical. That's because many won't have time to attend while they address disruptions to their businesses that have occurred during the recent credit crisis.

It may be that IMN's conference simply comes at the right time. In a statement released this week, the company said its gathering appeals to those eager to compare notes and strategies for dealing with "dramatic events over the past few months."

Nevertheless, there's speculation of a fair amount of no-shows, especially among the 500-plus buysiders and 375 issuer representatives who have signed up. Those players might register and then decide not to attend because they often don't have to pay, instead receiving free passes from conference sponsors - typically investment banks and bond insurers.

"Maybe dealers will go, because they have nothing else to do anyway," one CDO banker said, referring to a drastic drop in new issues and secondary-market trading over the last two months. "But if you're an investor and your position is down, which is the case with a lot of people out there, you have to be at your desk."

That's if you still have a desk.
One source reasoned that industry professionals might be flocking to Orlando to hunt for jobs after they were caught up in recent layoffs at Wall Street banks and issuers. "It's going to be awful," he said. "It will be 2,000 people looking for a new job." Elsewhere, Opal Financial claims to have signed up 912 participants for its upcoming "European CDO Summit," an increase of almost 100 from 2006 and a jump of several hundred from previous years.

As recently as a month ago, when registrations already topped 800, Opal organizers were concerned about a potential decline in attendance due to dislocations in the CDO market. "That hasn't happened," marketing director Jim Jatcko said. "There's a correction happening in the market, definitely. But people are still interested in talking and seeing what's happening."

The event runs Oct. 17-19 at the Fairmont Monte Carlo Grand Hotel in Monaco.



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