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Kai Ryssdal: Today's merger and acquisition news comes to us from Tokyo via San Francisco. Japan's Mitsubishi Financial Group is paying $3.5 billion for the part of San Francisco-based Union BanCal that it doesn't already own. Today's is just the latest in a string of overseas purchases by Japanese companies have been making. But, the Japanese economy's even worse off than ours. So we asked Marketplace's Alisa Roth to find out what's up with the spending spree.


Alisa Roth: Mitsubishi will pay $3.5 billion, or about $73 a share, for UnionBanCal. That's a 25 percent premium over the stock's price last week. But to a foreign bank, it's still a bargain. The whole mortgage mess has made American financial companies cheap. Of course, Japan's economy is wobbly, too. And in the past, Japanese companies would've waited it out. Jim Barth is a senior finance fellow at the Milken Institute. He says today, Japanese companies are looking outside for ways to grow.

Jim Barth: One can perhaps do much better by expanding here in the United States than simply by hunkering it down and staying solely in Japan.

Mitsubishi has an edge in this strategy, since it already owns a majority stake in Union BanCal. Barth says owning the whole thing will make it easier to expand aggressively throughout the U.S. Charles Wolf is a senior economic advisor at the Rand Corporation. He says Japanese companies are heavily invested in U.S. government bonds. So Mitsubishi's acquisition serves two purposes.

Charles Wolf: One is it'll diversify its holdings from predominant holdings of U.S. treasuries. And secondly is it will increase the expected yield of those holdings.

Several other Japanese firms have signed big cross-border deals this year, too. They spent almost as much in the first half of this year as they spent in all of 2007.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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