Foreign bankers are fleeing Tokyo as Japan’s nuclear crisis worsens, scrambling for commercial and charter flights out of the country and into other major cities in the region.
BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley[MS27.13-0.48(-1.74%)] were among the banks whose staff have left since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, and now a nuclear plant disaster, according to industry sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Expatriate staff at most foreign banks in Tokyo make up a small portion of the total, by some estimates less than 10 percent. But many are often in senior positions so their departure can have a significant impact.
And while Japan’s investment banking market is famously tough, it’s an essential place for large banks to be and can produce hefty fees.
“The foreign banker presence on the ground in Tokyo now is very thin and depending on how long it takes them to return there could be lasting implications of that,” said one banker. “Every time there’s a washout of foreigners in Japan they never quite return in the same numbers.”
With bankers joining the growing exodus, private jet operators reported a surge in demand for evacuation flights which sent prices surging as much as a quarter. One jet operator said the cost of flying 14 people to Hong Kong from Tokyo was more than $160,000.
“I got a request yesterday to fly 14 people from Tokyo to Hong Kong, 5 hour 5 minutes trip. They did not care about price,” said Jackie Wu, COO of Hong Kong Jet, a newly established private jet subsidiary of China’s HNA Group.
Radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear power plant spread panic across the country, emptying out Tokyo’s normally bustling streets. Scores of flights to the city were halted and embassies warned citizens to leave or avoid the region.
The Tokyo-based International Bankers Association (IBA), which represents 16 major investment banks, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that none of them had closed business or ordered evacuations.
“We are watching the situation as it unfolds, but right now, it’s business as usual,” Christopher Knight, Japan CEO for Standard Chartered, told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that his office was staffed and open.…..
……SIMILAR TO SARS
Several bankers compared the situation to the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) emerged in southern China in 2002, swept through Guangdong province and Hong Kong before spreading globally in 2003. It infected some 8,000 people and killed around 800, which prompted hordes of foreign professionals to leave Hong Kong.
Morgan Stanley had moved its credit team out of Tokyo, a person with knowledge of the matter told IFR. Morgan Stanley’s spokesman denied the bank had moved any staff out of Japan……”