Japan's three largest banks -- Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group -- entered a bidding war over Nikko Cordial Securities, which Citigroup plans to sell. The Japanese banks think the retail brokerage could become an integral part of growth plans. "The securities business is the only source of growth for the banking industry in Japan," said Azumo Ohno, a financial analyst at Credit Suisse.

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