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Sagent Big in Japan

The boutique bank sells a stake to overseas investors.

Updated from April 27

Privately held boutique investment bank Sagent Advisors has brought some international flavor into its merger and acquisition-oriented platform.

The New York-based firm, founded about three years ago by Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette executives, has sold a 20% minority interest to Japanese bank Daiwa Securities Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. The deal values it at about $250 million.

Chairman and co-CEO Joel Cohen, ex-co-head of M&A at DLJ, says the $52 million Japanese investment isn't a prelude to a buyout by the bank. He believes the combination makes sense because Japanese investors have a yen to do deals in the U.S. and Sagent executives have a history of collaborating with Daiwa.

Daiwa will take two seats on the company's seven-person board and also plans to ship its M&A team to Sagent's New York offices.

Japanese investors have been re-emerging in the U.S. as their economy has been recovering since the late 1980s and early 1990s when the country gobbled up real estate and made other sector investments until things turned sour.

Cohen says Japanese companies are now in growth mode and itching to do M&A deals, but from a much more rational position.

"The acquisition activity

in Japan is driven by the need for these companies to grow," he comments. Conversely, the Japanese have been much more open to cross-border investments, he adds.

Daiwa/Sumitomo officials were not immediately available for comment.