Japan’s structured credit market holds its breath
Often accused of being unwilling to make use of cutting-edge investment techniques, Japanese institutions are more and more attracted to the heady mix of strong ratings and high yields offered by structured credit. But the development of the market is threatened from several directions, and some worry that an over-cautious investor base could prove as dangerous as a reckless one. Lawrence White reports from Tokyo.
WHEN EUROMONEY SET out to gauge the mood of structured credit bankers in Japan as the fallout from the US sub-prime crisis spread east, the initial signs weren’t promising. One banker in Tokyo arrives late for the first time for his meeting, cordial as ever but looking slightly flustered. Another is accompanied by an unprecedented total of three corporate communications officers, one wielding a Dictaphone and all looking somewhat grave. A third banker visibly winces at the mention of the words "sub-prime". Despite the immediate stresses of post-crisis volatility, however, the general mood among Japan’s credit bankers is positive: long regarded as something of a late-adopter of innovative financial products, the country’s markets are starting to catch up and a new generation of structured credit products that cater to the unique demands of the investor base has been unleashed. The question on everyone’s minds is what the long-term fallout from the sub-prime crisis will be, and whether the developing structured credit market will suffer a serious setback.
"I came back to Japan from London in 2003," says Yasuhiro Shibata, general manager, global structured credit products at Mizuho, "to find that no real Japanese CDO market existed.