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M&A slump hits foreign banks

Mergers and acquisitions in Japan by foreign investors plummeted by over 80 percent in 2008, while Japanese firms’ acquisitions of (and investments in) non-Japanese companies more than doubled, according to the Japan Times. Not surprisingly, that’s had an impact on M&A hiring.

“Traditionally in Japan, foreign banks often advise foreign firms, and vice versa for local banks advising local firms,” says Abhi Kumar, a senior associate for banking recruitment at People Services International. “Hence, we have certainly seen foreign banks divesting themselves of some M&A staff due to the reduced appetite and capital of foreign firms to aggressively pursue deals.”

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there for the right talent. Kirstin Duffy, managing director of recruiters Morgan McKinley in Tokyo, says although recruitment in M&A has generally slowed, certain banks are open to selective hiring.

“Some financial institutions are still hiring in this area, albeit with caution. For example, Japan has seen some global players expand into the local M&A market recently and so these firms are hiring,” she says. And Duffy adds that some Japanese boutique M&A advisory firms are taking advantage of the increased number of available candidates in the market to secure high-calibre individuals.

With foreign-investor mergers slumping in Japan, is the role of M&A bankers changing? “The fundamentals of a deal and hence the advisory process have not changed, but the sphere of the focus of deals has certainly shifted,” Kumar says. Duffy adds that within Japan’s M&A market “there is now much more of a focus on cross-border deals and so the demand is for individuals who have this type of experience.”

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