If Nomura is Japan’s financial harelike cautionary tale of overseas expansion, might Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi be the tortoise? Japan’s largest bank by assets wants to increase its global presence. It has the best chance in a long while to break the familiar pattern of expansion and retreat.
There is no doubt BTMU has the firepower to get out there. Its huge domestic deposits are perhaps the most underused among the biggest banks. Net loans equate to about 60 per cent of total deposits, compared with about 70 per cent each at Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, HSBC and Citigroup.
And this is a different banking world. Gone are the days (for now) when the bank that dared leverage the most, won. That never really suited Japan’s banking style - Nomura’s gut-call, securities firm mentality is miles away from the caution of Japan’s big banks today. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, BTMU’s parent, is more about bolt-on buys - say $1.5bn to add to its Californian operations - than the overnight acquisition of the big fixed cost base of Lehman Brothers that has so troubled Nomura. Only now is the securities house getting that under control. Yet MUFG has had its harelike moments too: it is still 16 per cent underwater on its one-fifth stake in Morgan Stanley, taken at the same time as Nomura’s move on Lehman. But its earmarking of Y150bn (half of last year’s retained earnings) for acquisitions over three years is tortoise-like, as is BTMU’s plan to hire 200 (a 40 per cent increase) in its global markets unit.
Since Lehman collapsed, Nomura’s shares have lost three-quarters of their value, compared with half for MUFJ. This year, with its improving profitability Nomura’s shares have risen by double MUFG’s one-sixth gains. Punters aren’t used to winning on tortoises, but the world isn’t very hare-friendly right now.