Nomura plans 20% cut in staff

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TOKYO - Nomura, the largest of Japan's Big Four securities houses, is to cut its workforce by almost 20 per cent over the next five years from the present 12,000.

The firm will target back office female staff, a spokeswoman said. The cutbacks will be made through natural wastage and a reduction in new recruitment.

'It is difficult to break a tradition that Japanese companies do not retrench staff,' a Nomura official said.

Asked whether the move would be likely to affect Nomura's British operations, a spokesman for Nomura in London said: 'Not as far as we know.

'I understand it is a domestic issue in Japan.'

Securities analysts said Nomura's cost-cutting programme would encourage other battered brokerage houses to take similar steps, but warned that it might be too late for some of the smaller houses.

'These kind of moves should have come much earlier than now,' said Nozomu Kunishige, of Kleinwort Benson International. 'But the decision will at least increase the feeling of crisis in the industry.'

Moves to rescue ailing brokerages may surface later this year because they are expected to post further disastrous results in the six months to 30 September.

Sweeping financial reforms aimed at lowering barriers between financial industry sectors expected to take effect early next year have paved the way for banks to take over financially troubled brokerages.

Nomura is planning to scale down annual investment in office computers eventually to about Y4bn ( pounds 16.8m) from Y10bn a year and to reduce maintenance expenses from Y50bn a year by cutting branch offices.

Analysts said the moves might be just the first steps in a sweeping rationalisation programme. Nomura said it had set up a committee to streamline its operations.

With the Tokyo stock market showing no sign of recovery, many players in Kabutocho - Tokyo's equivalent of Wall Street - believe some of Japan's 216 brokerages will be forced to merge to survive.

The ministry of finance has already started working out ways of helping ailing brokerages bail out from financial difficulties stemming from the deep market slump.

The Nikkei average is down about 55 per cent from its 1989 peak. While all brokers could survive if trading volume topped 500 million shares a day, turnover has been drifting at 250 to 300 million since April.

The number of people employed in the securities industry, at present about 150,000, may need to be trimmed to 120,000 to cope with the downturn, analysts say.