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Asia-Pacific Business Japan’s Nomura axing jobs, bank branches to cut costs by $1-billion

People walk past a branch of the Nomura financial services group in Tokyo, Japan, on April 28, 2016.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

Japan’s Nomura Holdings will cut $1-billion in costs from its wholesale business and shut more than 30 of 156 domestic retail branches in its latest overhaul, the ailing bank said on Thursday.

Nomura also plans to axe about 100 jobs in London – the centre for its European investment banking business – as part of the overhaul, a banking source told Reuters.

The wholesale segment has been dragging on the performance of Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank, pushing it to its heaviest quarterly loss in nearly 10 years in the three months to December.

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Nomura then put the business, which serves corporations and institutional investors, under review as CEO Koji Nagai focused on reducing reliance on volatile global markets and building up stable revenue flows.

The target of cutting $1-billion in costs will be achieved over the “medium term,” with 60 per cent completed by the end of the financial year to March 2020, Nomura’s joint COO Kentaro Okuda said in an investor day presentation.

The cost reduction will result in revenue gains between $300-million and $400-million, with the ultimate target of building a wholesale platform that delivers consistent pre-tax income of $1-billion, he said without giving a time frame for that goal.

The segment swung to a pre-tax loss of 95.9 billion yen ($861-million) in the third quarter, versus a 14 billion yen profit a year earlier.

Nomura’s wholesale business has been squeezed by lower trading revenue in fixed income and what the bank described on Thursday as rigid indirect costs, adding that revenue for the business fell 24 per cent to $4.9-billion in the past financial year.

The bank said it would “de-emphasize” all operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa while sharpening its focus in Asia, excluding Japan, and the Americas, where it aims to increase business with corporate clients.

CORPORATE FOCUS

The planned London job cuts represent part of this push, the banking source said, declining to be named.

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The source, who has knowledge of Nomura’s business strategy, said the investment bank will also focus more on the corporate business rather than rates. It will also shift focus from bond trading to the primary market managing bond sales for borrowers.

Nomura will look to maintain all of its existing relationships regardless of the job losses, he added. The bank is a primary dealer for a number of European government bond issuers.

When asked about how many jobs will be cut as part of the global overhaul, Nomura CEO Nagai declined to comment.

A document seen by Reuters shows that Nomura would look for a 50 per cent cost reduction in its trading business in Europe, Middle East and Africa while also aiming to digitize its systems.

The plans include pursuing “strategic growth opportunities” in China, where the bank last week received regulatory approval to set up a majority-owned brokerage joint venture.

For the year ended in March, analysts expect the company to post its first annual loss since 2009, Refinitiv data shows, hurt also by a steep drop in profit at its retail business.

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Japanese banks have been accelerating cost-cutting by shutting down domestic branches as they grapple with ultralow interest rates and a declining population at home.

Nomura’s plans to pare its retail footprint at home comes after rival Mizuho Financial Group last month said that it would book about 500 billion yen of impairment losses on fixed assets, including costs from closing branches at home and software-related expenses.

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