Seeking a higher profile in the U.S. corporate finance market, Societe Generale has hired a NationsBank executive with ties to some of the largest leveraged buyout firms.

Bradford C. Yates has joined the French bank as a managing director, responsible for covering firms like Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and Thomas H. Lee Co. Mr. Yates had been a managing director in high-yield finance at NationsBank Corp.

Observers said Societe Generale, France's third largest bank, is seeking to expand its role in the U.S. leveraged finance business. The bank is currently known as a niche player, with a focus on telecommunications and related industries.

"There are a significant number of new entrants looking to get into the leveraged finance business," said Michael Klein, a managing director and head of the financial entrepreneurs group at Smith Barney.

"Societe Generale sees this as an attractive time to bulk up in new areas that they're going to grow into," added T. Lee Pomeroy, a recruiter with Egon Zehnder International in New York.

Indeed, Societe Generale last week lured Keith Barnish, a managing director and head of syndications at BankAmerica Corp., to its growing shop. While Mr. Barnish ultimately decided to stay with BankAmerica, his courting demonstrated Societe Generale's hunger for corporate finance talent.

In February, the bank successfully lured James N. Lane, a former partner of Goldman, Sachs & Co., to head its private investments group. And early last week, it snagged four project finance bankers-Roger W. Bredder, James G. Brown Jr., Roberto S. Simon, and Jeffrey T. Wood-from Chase Manhattan Corp.

Before joining NationsBank more than two years ago, Mr. Yates spent 10 years at Salomon Brothers. He will report to Greg Malcolm, a managing director and head of leveraged finance.

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