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Fortis Buys Commerzbank's Japanese Asset Managing Firm

The asset manager of Belgian-Dutch financial group Fortis said on Tuesday it would buy a Tokyo-based asset managing firm wholly owned by Germany's Commerzbank to expand its operations in Japan.

The asset manager, Fortis Investments, declined to comment on the value of its purchase of Commerz International Capital Management (Japan) (CICMJ), but a source familiar with the deal has said it would be a little less than $100 million. CICMJ has about 400 billion yen ($3.5 billion) under management.

"The acquisition of CICMJ and its successful team allows us to expand our distribution capability more quickly than a greenfield development," Stewart Edgar, head of Asia for Fortis Investments, said in a statement.

Separately, Fortis is in the process of opening a Tokyo branch for corporate banking early next year, said a source familiar with the bank, which is in Europe moving forward its acquisition of parts of ABN AMRO.

Liliane Tackaert, Fortis spokeswoman in Brussels, said, however, she could not comment on a rumour, referring to the bank's opening of a Tokyo branch.

Fortis currently has two units in Japan to deal mainly with corporate customers -- one in charge of investment consulting and the other in back-office services related to offshore funds.

Fortis Investments said the acquisition of CICMJ is subject to approval by Japan's Financial Services Agency and is expected to close on Oct. 31.

CICMJ will be renamed as Fortis Asset Management (Japan). But CICMJ's CEO, Hitoshi Yamamoto, will remain and use the provided sum to further develop the investment trust business in Japan.

CICMJ has about 30 employees, including about eight portfolio managers who act as gatekeepers for some 60 Japanese pension funds investing in global securities.

The firm, approved as an investment fund manager in Japan in 1997, also manages about 20 Japan-domiciled public investment trusts.

The fast-growing investment trust market is potentially a lucrative way for newcomers to tap into cash-rich Japanese households, whose financial assets are valued at more than 1,500 trillion yen ($13 trillion).