JPMorgan eyes Japan deals

JPMorgan Chase is looking at possible acquisitions in Japan as it seeks to take advantage of banking reforms in the world's second-largest economy, the bank signalled on Monday.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive, indicated the bank was prepared to make a significant acquisition along the lines of Citigroup's purchase of Nikko Cordial, Japan's third-largest broker.

"I have asked the management teams here that they come up with joint ventures and acquisitions that, if they did make sense, we will pursue. We think Japan will be a great market over time," Mr Dimon told the Nikkei Global Management Forum. We clearly would be as aggressive as Citi."

However, Mr Dimon said JPMorgan would first look at expanding organically in Japan.

JPMorgan's push comes amid a Japanese government initiative to shift savings into investments, a move that is expected to provide a significant boost to new financial services. Japanese households have nearly Y1,500,000bn ($13,000bn) in financial assets, with about half held as cash and in bank deposits.

The government is also looking to reduce the regulatory divisions between banking and securities businesses in a move that could expand business opportunities for financial conglomerates such as Citi and JPMorgan.

Citi said on Monday it had received approval from the Tokyo Stock Exchange to list its shares in Japan. The listing follows a move by the US bank, which holds 68 per cent of Nikko Cordial, to buy out minority shareholders at a cost of Y530bn.

Doug Peterson, Citi's chief executive in Japan, said the bank was doubling its retail branches to 60 and beefing up its corporate banking businesses with the aim of becoming "the leading comprehensive banking and securities group in Japan".

HSBC, meanwhile, is setting up its own retail network, with the aim of building a private banking business in Japan.

JPMorgan is likely to want to expand into private banking in Japan and might be looking at acquiring a retail bank.

Analysts said either Aozora Bank or Shinsei Bank, which have been acquired by US private equity firms Cerberus and Ripplewood respectively, could be targets.

JPMorgan last month installed Greg Guyett, a mergers and acquisitions specialist, as chief executive in Japan. The bank is also beefing up its investment banking and equity capital markets teams with new hirings. ( FT )

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