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Mizuho: Big, bold but …

A three-way merger has created Mizuho, Japan’s and the world’s biggest bank by assets. If the deal works – and legal issues will postpone full integration for some time – the new leviathan may be a powerhouse. But is management up to the task? And will Japan’s notoriously difficult market let them do what they want?

Imagine the grains of rice ripening in the field, "growing strong and upright with their heads up, straight and proud like American MBAs who show no respect for anyone," says Yukihiko Chayama. "Only when the rice ripens and the grains are full do they bow down, ready to be of service. Our new name, Mizuho, means 'fresh harvest of rice'. But there is also another meaning for Mizuho: the expression 'Mizuho country' is used poetically to refer to Japan and captures the image of the fields full of rice waving under golden sunshine, a rich and beautiful nation."

Chayama is chief investor relations officer of Mizuho Financial Group, the massive new company whose assets of $1.3 trillion make it Japan's and the world's biggest banking group.

But his enthusiasm cannot hide the fact that Mizuho's size is, right now as much a problem as an asset and may be its downfall. The new bank is already being nicknamed 'Godzilla' by its friends and 'the 21st-century dinosaur' by those less friendly.

James Fiorillo, the high-profile and often acerbic bank analyst at ING Barings declares characteristically that the new bank "is going to be a nightmare".

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