Business / Corporate

Mitsubishi UFJ to boost Taiwan staff as cross-strait trade grows

by Shingo Kawamoto

Bloomberg

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. is seeking to expand its workforce in Taiwan as it pursues business from companies benefiting from increasing trade between the island and mainland China.

“We need to be geographically close to our customers,” Tetsuo Tani, deputy head of planning for East Asia at Japan’s biggest bank, said in an interview in Tokyo last month. He aims to boost the company’s Taiwan head count by about 10 percent from 200 now as the bank adds a branch in the second-largest city of Kaohsiung.

Mitsubishi UFJ also plans to open an outlet in the Chinese coastal city of Fuzhou amid burgeoning trade fueled by the most cordial relations between Taiwan and the mainland in more than six decades.

The bank is seeking to close the gap with Mizuho Financial Group Inc., which has more loans in Taiwan than any other Japanese lender, as shrinking domestic borrowing costs prompt the Tokyo-based companies to expand abroad.

“Japanese banks can be competitive with loans given the low interest-rate environment at home,” said Michael Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Morningstar Inc. “Building relations with a Japanese lender can also be beneficial for companies with aspirations to expand into Japan.”

Mitsubishi UFJ’s Taiwanese loan portfolio is about ¥350 billion ($2.8 billion), and Tani said he wants to increase the balance by ¥50 billion over the next three years. The bank’s goals for the region do not end there, he added.

“If it was just about loans, we could probably cover the whole market from Taipei, but we want to improve the quality of our business by capturing deposits and settlements in renminbi,” Tani said.

Mizuho has more than 300 employees in Taiwan, three branches and loans of about ¥900 billion. It was the first Japanese bank to enter the market when predecessor Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank started there in 1959, 10 years after Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang party fled the mainland.

The Kaohsiung branch will focus on bringing in business, with administrative functions centered in Taipei, Tani said. The Fuzhou outlet will help Mitsubishi UFJ seize on deregulation efforts by China’s government that will facilitate trade with Taiwan, he said.

China named Fuzhou as a “model for cooperation” in cross-strait trade as part of Fujian province’s trial free-trade zone announced in April, one of three such zones that followed the nation’s first in Shanghai.

“There’s no question whatsoever that there will be new opportunities in Fuzhou,” said Tani.

China is Taiwan’s biggest trade partner.

Two-way trade rose 5.4 percent to $174.4 billion in 2014, contributing about 30 percent of the island’s imports and exports, Taiwan Ministry of Finance data show.

About 80 percent of Mitsubishi UFJ’s Taiwan loan business is with non-Japanese customers, many of which have traditionally strong links with China, said Tani. The bank sees potential for growth in areas such as Taiwan’s globally competitive electronic components sector, he said.

Mitsubishi UFJ arranged a $300 million loan in July for the Hong Kong unit of Taiwan’s Nan Ya Plastics Corp., according to S.W. Hou, a spokesman for parent Formosa Plastics Group.

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