Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. (DCR) is the latest international agency to set up shop in Japan, and it is already busy building its profile in the market.

Next month, the agency will hold its first seminar for Japanese institutional investors, said Thomas Eastling, senior vice president of DCR in Tokyo.

The seminar to be held January 20 at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo will provide an introduction to DCR and an overview of various new securitization structures that may be implemented in the Japanese market. Such new structures include securitizations involving project finance and independent power producers, which DCR has rated before in other markets.

The agency, known as a pioneer for rating future flows and other non-traditional ABS structures in emerging markets, hopes to apply its experience to rate similar structures in Japan, explained Eastling.

DCR's entry reflects the four international rating agencies' aggressive moves into Japan, where they hope to capitalize on the exploding ABS market. Moody's Investors Service currently rates the most transactions and is closely followed by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, while Fitch IBCA, which started up in January, is slowly catching up.

Yet there is still room for another agency, said Eastling. "There's a lot of business and a lot of opportunities, but it will take some time to make DCR familiar with Japanese institutional investors. Still, Japan is a high growth market for us because there are a lot of new structures being introduced, and that's one of our strengths," he noted.

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