Nomura is starting to look nubile

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Not long ago, things looked grizzly for Nomura. It revealed a very large Lehman-related loss when its full year results were announced in April, and reputedly instated a swear box to help kill the ghost of Lehman during London-based meetings.

But like a small ugly child that grows into a large alluring adult, Nomura is suddenly looking more attractive.

According to Reuters, the Nikkei Business Daily thinks Nomura made a profit between April and June.

Goldman analyst Takehito Yamanaka says a return to profit over the most recent quarter wouldn't be surprising. He's predicting net income of 122m for Nomura this year and 177m next year, up from a 709m loss in the 12 months to March 2009.

Yamanaka's optimism is down to an expected increase in Nomura's revenues and 'success in winning major investment banking deals.' BusinessWeek, for example, points out that mining company Anglo American has hired Nomura alongside Goldman Sachs to help it resist hostile bids. Nomura is also now the third largest broker on the LSE.

In the midst of this incipient success, Nomura is still hiring. The Wall Street Journal says it's looking for 240 bankers in the US. Earlier this month, it named BofA's Ciaran O'Kelly head of US equities. It also announced European hires from UBS and Citigroup during July.

Longer term, the question remains whether Nomura will be able to build a successful franchise without staff costs spiraling out of control as apparently happened after the Lehman acquisition, when compensation costs soared to 84% of revenues.

Despite rumours of generous multi-year guarantees, Senior Nomura insiders say lots of people want to work there and they're not paying premiums, even in the US where the brand isn't well known.

"A lot of established players want to be part of building something new. People are excited about this," says one.

Those excited people are less likely to be disappointed than in the past, when Nomura was renowned for giving up on build-outs that didn't work. "If you're growing organically it's easy to go in and out," says the Nomura insider. "But the Lehman deal was a huge commitment. We're going to be profitable, but we're not in a situation where we need to make a profit by a particular date or the plug will be pulled."

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