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Japan firms line up for PH business after Abe pitch

/ 12:40 AM February 03, 2017

Japanese firms, especially those in the infrastructure business, are scrambling for a slice of prospective new businesses arising from Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 1-trillion-yen (P440-billion) financing and investment pledge to the Philippines.

This was stated by Japanese banking giant Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. (BTMU), a leading player in project financing globally, which has been matching Japanese firms with potential local partners in support of Mr. Abe’s commitment to the Philippines.

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The Japanese bank is also preparing to fund large-scale projects in the Philippines under the golden age of infrastructure envisioned by President Duterte.

Takayoshi Futae, BTMU chief executive officer for Asia & Oceania, said in a recent briefing that BTMU and many Japanese firms were upbeat on the

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1-trillion-yen package pledged by Abe to promote economic and infrastructure development in the Philippines within the next five years.

“This is one of Japan’s largest investment directed at a single country and we really want to be part of this project,” said the Singapore-based Futae, who was in town for a series of meetings with BTMU’s local partner, Security Bank.

“MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group—of which BTMU is part of) is very committed to supporting Asia’s growth. We not only have the financial capability but also strong network and strategic relationships across the region,” he said.

Futae is unfazed by China’s bid to do more business in the Philippines—given the recent rekindling of bilateral ties with China—adding that there was enough business in the region for both Japanese and Chinese firms.

Tadahiro Miyamoto, general manager of BTMU Philippines, said representatives of many Japanese prefectures (local government units) had been visiting the Philippines “trying to find market for their products.”  With its 100-million consumer market, he said many Japanese firms were interested in doing business in the Philippines.

Miyamoto said Japanese infrastructure-related companies and those targeting domestic markets like retailers were among those most interested in the Philippines. Those involved in the car industry are likewise interested because of the government’s “CARS” program, he said.

The government’s Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program seeks to attract new investments, stimulate demand and effectively implement industry regulations that will revitalize the Philippine automotive industry, and develop the country as a regional automotive manufacturing hub.  The program covers not only car assemblers but also manufacturers of vehicle parts.

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Futae said the 6-7 percent growth rate of the country was “amazing” from the perspective of someone who hails from a slow-growing economy like Japan.

“Philippines and Japan should work more together,” he said.

To better understand the country and flesh out its commitment, Futae said BTMU was in need of a strong and reliable local partner—now the role of Security Bank. Since acquiring a 20-percent stake in Security Bank in April last year, he said BTMU had been able to expand into retail lending and financing to Philippine companies.

During recent meetings, Futae said BTMU and Security Bank discussed “further collaboration” and everyone was “bullish on the success of the collaboration.”

Asked whether BTMU was keen on raising its interest in the local bank, Futae said the group was comfortable with its 20-percent stake but added that if given the opportunity to increase its stake in Security Bank, this would be something that the group would “seriously” consider.

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