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Japan’s securitization boom keeps specialist lawyers busy

US and UK law firms are collaborating and competing with domestic peers to reap the benefits of the Japanese securitization boom.

Japanese securitization volume has continued to grow rapidly as restructuring of the financial and corporate sectors has assumed ever greater urgency.

This is good news for the few Tokyo-based law firms that have established track records in the speciality. Securitization, and structured finance in general, has been one of the few guaranteed fee-earners in recent months, driven by collateralized debt obligation (CDO) issuance (balance sheet and synthetic) and residential mortgage-backed and commercial mortgage-backed securitizations (RMBS and CMBS). The issuance of more traditional asset types will, according to Fitch Ratings, most probably remain steady, or enjoy modest growth. Additional activity for this year is predicted from the Japanese banks which, seeking to manage their risk exposure, are expected to launch synthetic CDO transactions.

Clifford Chance, one of the leading securitization/structured finance law firms in Tokyo, has been advising on major deals including acting for Morgan Stanley on the first securitization-backed acquisition financing in Japan by Aiful Corporation of Life Co earlier this year (including a US offering of the underlying receivables), and advising Commerzbank Securities as arranger of a securitization of consumer finance receivables originated by Sanwa Finance.

Christopher Lewis, structured finance partner with US firm Orrick Herrington&Sutcliffe, says: "The whole structured finance market has definitely been continuing to grow in line with our expectations.

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