MUFG names Hirano, soft-spoken but tough negotiator, as president

TOKYO Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:52am EST

TOKYO Feb 28 (Reuters) - Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group said Nobuyuki Hirano, chief of its core banking unit, will become company president -- a move that comes at time when Japanese banks are under pressure to expand further overseas, particularly in investment banking.

Hirano, 61, will replace Katsunori Nagayasu, whose tenure was marked by large-scale acquisitions in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Hirano, who has spent over a decade in the United States, is a fluent English speaker -- rare among Japanese bank executives -- and is regarded as a tough negotiator despite his soft-spoken manner.

Under Nagayasu's helm, MUFG acquired full control of California-based UnionBanCal Corp for $3.5 billion and took a 22 percent stake in Morgan Stanley for $9 billion.

MUFG, which has $2.45 trillion in assets, has like other Japanese rivals, also successfully taken advantage of its relatively sound financial base to build loans overseas as European lenders shrink their assets. It ranked No. 1 among global project finance mandated arrangers in 2012, Thomson Reuters data shows.

But the commercial loan business is only expected to take MUFG so far.

Loan demand at home is unlikely to pick up any time soon and domestic banks have amassed huge holdings of Japanese government bonds as there are not enough borrowers to absorb their piles of deposit money.

Japanese banks have a relatively limited presence in the global investment banking market, but are hoping to increase their presence in areas such as bond and share issue underwriting.

MUFG runs two investment banking joint ventures with Morgan Stanley in Japan, competing with industry heavy weights Nomura Holdings and Daiwa Securities Group Inc.

Hirano's appointment, which was widely expected, takes effect April 1.

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