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Japanese bypass Merrill Lynch

Merrill Lynch, the world's largest broker, has lost a bid for the first foreign seat on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to a small Japanese firm, the chairman of the firm's Japan branch said Wednesday. Rejecting a Merrill Lynch offer, Yamaichi Securities said it had sold its Tokyo Stock Exchange seat for $6.3 million to Utsumiya Securities, a firm within its own financial group.

Merrill Lynch plans to bid for the next available seat and ask the United States government to pressure Japan to support foreign firms aiming to enter its capital markets, Merrill Lynch (Japan) chairman Tetsundo Iwakuni said. The US and Japan signed a joint accord last May that set a timetable for the opening of Japan's domestic markets and the loosening of restraints on currency exchanges and yen borrowing. Japan pledged in the accord to help speed the entry of foreign brokers into the 83-member Tokyo exchange.

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