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Japan's Nomura to cut $1 billion costs to revive wholesale business, shut branches

Key Points
  • To cut $1 billion in costs from wholesale unit
  • To achieve 60 percent of target by end of year to March 2020
  • To shut more than 30 out of 156 retail branches at home

Japan's Nomura Holdings said on Thursday it would cut $1 billion in costs from its wholesale business and shut more than 30 of 156 domestic retail branches, in its latest strategy overhaul to turn around its struggling business.

The wholesale segment has been dragging on the performance of Japan's biggest brokerage and investment bank, and pushed it to its heaviest quarterly loss in nearly 10 years in the three months to December. 

A pedestrian walks past illuminated signage for Nomura Securities Co., a unit of Nomura Holdings Inc in Tokyo, Japan.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nomura then put the segment, which serves corporations and institutional investors, under review, as CEO Koji Nagai focused on reducing reliance on volatile global markets and building up stable revenue flows.

The target of cutting $1 billion in costs will be achieved over "medium term", with 60 percent of it being completed by the end of the fiscal year to March 2020, Nomura co-COO Kentaro Okuda said in an investor day presentation.

The cost reduction will result in $300-$400 million in revenue gains, with the ultimate target of building a wholesale platform that delivers "consistent" pre-tax income of $1 billion, he said, without giving a timeframe for that goal.

The segment posted a pre-tax loss of 95.9 billion yen ($861 million) in the third quarter, versus a 14 billion yen profit a year earlier. 

Nomura's wholesale business has been facing challenges due to lower trading revenue in fixed income and "rigid indirect costs", the bank said on Thursday, adding revenue for the unit fell 24 percent to $4.9 billion in the last fiscal year. 

The bank said it would "de-emphasize" its whole business in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, Africa), while sharpening focus in Asia, excluding Japan, and the Americas where it planned to increase business with corporate clients.

The plans include pursuing "strategic growth opportunities" in China, where the bank last week received regulatory approval to set up a majority-owned brokerage joint venture.

For the year ended in March, analysts expect the company to post its first annual loss since 2009, Refinitiv data shows, hurt also by a steep drop in profits in its retail business.

Japanese banks have been accelerating cost-cutting by shutting down domestic retail branches as they grapple with the ultra-low interest rates and a declining population at home.

Nomura's plans to pare its retail footprint at home comes after rival Mizuho Financial Group said last month it would book about 500 billion yen of impairment losses on fixed assets, including costs from closing retail branches at home and software-related expenses.