Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. plans to increase loans to energy and utility industries in the U.S. to capitalize on a recovery there, President Nobuyuki Hirano said.
The bank, whose San Francisco-based UnionBanCal Corp. unit last week agreed to acquire $3.7 billion of U.S. property-loan assets from Deutsche Bank, is still looking to buy another lender in the country, Hirano, 61, said in an April 8 interview.
Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan’s biggest lender, is stepping up acquisitions in the U.S. as a rebound in the housing market and increasing demand for its natural gas brighten growth prospects.
The Tokyo-based lender, Morgan Stanley’s largest shareholder, bought UnionBanCal in 2008 and California-based Pacific Capital Bancorp last year as persistent deflation inhibits loan demand at home.
“We want to accumulate project-finance loans in the energy and utility sectors on top of our commercial and corporate banking operations to bridge our businesses on the west and east coasts,” said Hirano. “By unifying those platforms, we can further increase our presence in the U.S.”
Hirano, who has worked at Mitsubishi UFJ and its predecessors for 39 years, became president this month, succeeding Katsunori Nagayasu. He takes the reins of a bank that expanded overseas lending last year by 20 percent to ¥21.9 trillion as of Dec. 31.
The U.S. is poised to become a net exporter of liquefied petroleum gas for the first year ever as shale-based energy production jumps, prompting new orders for specialized ships to haul propane and butane.
The boom in natural gas and oil production helped the U.S. meet 84 percent of its energy needs in 2012, the most since 1991, government data show.
Mitsubishi UFJ is still seeking to buy a regional bank on the West Coast to strengthen commercial lending at UnionBanCal, Hirano said.
“The regional banks that we’ve been looking at recently are mostly small ones with a market value in the $100 million to multihundred million dollar range,” he said, without elaborating.
“We want to buy something that can bring about geographical synergy.”
In an interview last April, Hirano said the bank was considering spending “several billion” dollars to buy a U.S. lender.