SMBC Nikko Targets Nomura With Global Investment Banker Hiring

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. is hiring staff at its investment banking unit as it competes with more established names such as Nomura Holdings Inc. for bond and share deals.

SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., which started operations in 2009, was the second-largest underwriter of Japanese equity sales and the fourth biggest for local corporate note issues last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nomura has been the nation’s top stock underwriter since 2002, while Mizuho Financial Group Inc. took the top spot in 2014 for company notes, beating Nomura, which had been No. 1 for three years, excluding self-led issues.

“We realized it wouldn’t be so easy for us to win more bond deals unless we bring new issuers to the market,” Shunshi Kira, head of the capital markets at SMBC Nikko, said at the brokerage’s Tokyo headquarters in an interview. Kira said he would like to double to about 10 staff for the team covering debt sales by financial institutions and add bankers in the U.S. to support origination and distribution of new deals.

Sumitomo Mitsui, Japan’s second-biggest bank, is joining Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Mizuho in seeking to harness lending ties to capture more underwriting mandates at home and abroad. Mizuho said last month it will buy Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s North American loan book to boost investment banking services, while Mitsubishi UFJ runs joint ventures with Morgan Stanley.

Capture Wallet

“The megabanks want to capture an increasing share of the wallet of their large corporate customers, not just the domestic corporates but also the large blue chip overseas corporates that they are increasingly courting,” said Alastair Macdonald, a Tokyo-based analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. “They generally view it as necessary to have debt capital markets and even equity capital markets capability.”

Sumitomo Mitsui acquired equity and debt underwriting operations from Citigroup Inc. in 2009 and dissolved a 10-year-old joint venture with Daiwa Securities Group Inc. to focus on its own investment banking business. Citigroup’s sale of Nikko Cordial Securities Inc. to Sumitomo Mitsui in 2009 also gave the Japanese bank access to one of the nation’s oldest and biggest brokerages.

Boost Recognition

Net income at SMBC Nikko rose to 22 billion yen in the three months ended Dec. 31, the best result in six quarters, buoyed by increased investment trust sales and equity brokerage commissions. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose above 19,000 for the first time in almost 15 years this month as the Bank of Japan provides unprecedented monetary stimulus and the $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund buys more stocks.

SoftBank Corp. has lead sales of Japanese corporate bonds since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on policies to stimulate the Japanese economy and end more than 15-years of deflation. The wireless carrier rated non-investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s has sold more than 2 trillion yen in notes since the start of 2013 as the BOJ has driven yields on some government debt to negative levels.

In debt underwriting, SMBC Nikko still needs to do more to gain recognition and bigger mandates, according to Kira. That includes winning deals from companies whose main bank is Sumitomo Mitsui but have favored Nomura or Daiwa in the past.

SMBC Nikko helped underwrite first-time bond sales by JA Mitsui Leasing Ltd. and Coca-Cola East Japan Co. last year. It co-managed the two sales, and was the only lead manager on both.

Dollar Bonds

Sumitomo Mitsui’s group companies have issued more than $10 billion in dollar-denominated bonds in the last 12 months, including subordinated debt that counts as capital.

In domestic share sales, the bank has already surpassed rival megabank brokerages in underwriting. SMBC Nikko had to set up its own equity sales team after it bought underwriting divisions from Citigroup, and it took a while for clients to become used to the new set-up, Kira said.

SMBC Nikko underwrote 18 percent of stock offerings last year, up from 1.5 percent in 2010, the company’s first full-year under the Sumitomo Mitsui group.

“Everything was in place but this fiscal year was really the one in which we showed that on paper,” he said. “We are now at a stage where we can boost deals, and use that track record to secure our status.”

Biggest Offerings

SMBC Nikko co-managed some of the biggest share sales by Japanese companies including the largest by Mitsui Fudosan Co., a real estate developer, and the initial public offering by Recruit Holdings Co., a provider of staffing services. Nomura was the single biggest underwriter of stock sales at 29 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. was third, behind SMBC Nikko, at 12 percent.

SMBC Nikko hired Michelle Petropoulos as head of equity capital markets in New York from Mizuho last September. The brokerage is considering boosting staff for its non-Japanese equity capital markets business, Kira said.

“For ECM bankers in Tokyo at overseas brokers who don’t have the opportunity to work in London or New York, SMBC Nikko may be attractive,” he said.

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