Sumitomo Mitsui (SMFG) Mulls to Expand Jefferies Alliance in Asia

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Inc. SMFG is considering further expanding its alliance with U.S. investment bank Jefferies Financial Group Inc. JEF. Per a Bloomberg report, SMFG’s new CEO, Toru Nakashima, is mulling to further widen the bank’s alliance with JEF into Asia in an effort to compete with its Japan rivals, who have been moving rapidly to build out their investment banking overseas.

Notably, in 2021, SMFG initially formed an alliance with JEF by providing $2.25 billion and purchasing 4.5% of the issued and outstanding common shares of Jefferies.

In April 2023, SMFG said that it would expand its presence in the United States by boosting its stake in JEF to 15% from 4.5%, pending approval.

Since then, the partners have won more than 30 deals in bond and equity underwriting. Nakashima stated, “It’s a faster pace than we had expected, it is going very well.”

Then again, last month, SMFG and JEF signed a memorandum of understanding to further expand their global strategic alliance to include enhanced collaboration across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Now, after announcing that the alliance will extend to EMEA, Nakashima has said that Asia should be the next target. He said, “If we do well in Europe, our discussion will naturally be, how about Asia?”

SMFG’s competitors in Japan have been moving more rapidly to build out revenues from deals in the United States, either by hiring from banks, acquiring stakes or purchasing boutiques outright.

Last year, Mizuho Financial Group, Inc. MFG acquired New York-based investment bank Greenhill & Co. to offer more advice on global mergers. Recently, MFG has said that it plans to intensely expand in the private markets.

However, SMFG has been lagging behind MFG in the United States. Nakashima said, “There is still a big gap. We are doing the collaboration with Jefferies in order to fill that gap. In proportion to the number of clients, our investment banking fees have been very small.”

Per Nakashima, SMFG has been behind its rivals in taking advantage of relationships with U.S. corporate clients because of weakness in equity underwriting.

Nevertheless, he believes that the alliance with JEF will be able to fix this issue as here the Japanese bank brings its balance sheet and debt capital markets expertise, while Jefferies adds M&A advisory and equity financing services.

Notably, under the leadership of the former CEO, Ohta, Sumitomo Mitsui made several acquisitions in Asia. Now, Nakashima seeks to build on that expansion. He said that SMFG is looking for deals in Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Moreover, as Japan’s second-largest lender beefs up its business portfolio abroad, Nakashima aims for three successive years of record net profit.

The Bank of Japan is expected to end negative interest rates soon, a move that will likely benefit SMFG’s core banking business. Thus, SMFG is expected to finance its overseas expansion from the banking business at home.

Given that Nakashima is confident in the company’s strategy to tap growth through overseas acquisitions, he is “certain to attain” the net profit target of 920 billion yen this financial year through March.

He added, “And we strive to achieve higher profit in the next year and the year after.”

Over the past six months, SMFG shares have gained 20.3% compared with the industry’s 8.3% growth.


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Currently, SMFG carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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