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PEOPLE - Houlihan’s Man in Japan

After rejecting the idea a decade ago, Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin explored opening an office in Tokyo but backed off after determining there was just not enough interest in cross-border deal making.

Now the middle-market investment banking specialist is convinced that Japanese industry is ready to look abroad for acquisitions. Houlihan should know. The Los Angeles–based firm was acquired by Tokyo-based Orix Corp. in 2005 but has not done business in its new home country. That’s set to change, thanks to the September hiring of Ryuta Fujino from PwC Advisory Co. to head a new Tokyo office. Fujino, who also spent seven years running equity investments for Nippon Life Insurance Co., says Japanese large-cap companies are interested in making U.S. acquisitions but need help learning about and making con­tact with their preferred targets: middle-market companies. “No one is providing this advice to Japanese companies right now, at least not in our sweet spot, which is the $300 million to $500 million market cap range,” Fujino says.