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UFJ Bank Limited’s Energy, Commodities, Export and Project Finance Group, which is headed up globally by Tatsuhiko Yasukochi, has expanded with staff changes in London, New York and Shanghai in its drive to become a recognised global player in the commodity finance field.

In London, the bank internally promoted Yoshihiro Kubo to head the group and following the move of Joep Kockmann (head of commodity and structured finance) and Ian Henderson (responsible for all South American structured finance activities), the bank has hired two more ex-WestLB people (see GTR, Jan/Feb, p14). Marc Werblow has joined the department as a senior analyst, whilst Carmel Sweeney is jointly responsible for the newly formed credit control and collateral management unit. The latter function will be shared with Colin Siney, who joins from Banque Belgolaise.

Earlier on, the New York department of the group recruited Chan Park and Fernando Londono from Standard Chartered Bank, to drive forward a US expansion under the newly internally appointed head Akihiko Hamamura. Recently the group opened a new commodity and structured trade finance department at its branch in Shanghai, headed up by Michael Chen, ex-Noble Trade Finance.

UFJ, one of Japan’s big four banks and the result of the 2001 merger between Sanwa, Tokai and Toyo Trust, has clearly committed itself to commodity finance and acknowledges the area as one of its core international activities. Over the years the bank has been steadily growing its asset book, mainly through participations in numerous structured transactions at various levels and increasingly by securing mandates as lead arrangers from the likes of Sonangol, Nomos, IPCC, Tobacco Export Guarantee, Rusal and arranging bilaterals for a number of Southern American soft commodities producers. Until now the group’s involvement in the “traditional types “of commodity financing has been limited. This complementary activity is set to grow and the aim is to become a leading service provider to a client base involved in the production, origination, processing, merchanting/trading, and/or consumption of commodities.