September 25th, 2008
02:07 AM GMT
When my crew and I arrived on the scene at the Singapore office of AIG, we were not only struck by the number of people lining up to cancel their policies and withdraw their money but also by the remarks of the cab driver who pulled us up to the side of the building.
"Haven't you heard?" he asked us incredulously when we tried to confirm exactly what the people were waiting for. "AIG is going bankrupt!"
Now, that might not sound surprising to someone living in the United States. But we were thousands of miles away from the home turf of the American insurance giant. Granted Singaporeans have a strong interest in the financial world, but the driver got me wondering ...
How many Asian financial institutions can you name?
In the past few days, Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi UFJ and Nomura have been throwing their money into Wall Street firms - either to buy a strategic stake (Mitsubishi UFJ into Morgan Stanley) or to pick up assets (Nomura into Lehman). The belief here is that these Japanese players are building their brands and positioning themselves for greater influence in the global financial markets.
And the Japanese aren't the only ones.
Before Lehman went bust, shares of the investment bank were supported by news Korea Development Bank was gearing up to buy a massive chunk of the venerable U.S. firm.
Cash-rich governments are getting in on the action, too.
State investment arms, known as sovereign wealth funds, are buying up shares of Wall Street titans such as Merrill. Many of the governments out here have coffers filled with cash from goods sold to American consumers.
So are Asian financial firms poised to become household names?
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