CASH-RICH United States companies are reshaping Asian business by buying up huge chunks of the financial services industry and taking key stakes in other leading sectors. Since March, a record $52 billion has flooded into the region for purchases or for mergers with capital-hungry Asian corporates. Last month alone, purchases exceeded $19 billion and they showed no sign of slowing this month, New York-based research company Securities Data said. Big-spending US companies were responsible for all of the top 10 mergers and acquisitions in Asia this year, and 90 of the top 100. Six of the top 10 involved US companies spending nearly $30 billion buying Japanese finance companies. The deals include Salomon Smith Barney's Nikko Securities purchase and Metropolitan Life Insurance's $7 billion acquisition of Korea Life. US corporates, their capital base swollen by booming domestic markets, are taking advantage of the fire-sale prices in much of Asia. Their financial muscle is also being strengthened by the might of the US dollar against depleted Asian currencies. In addition, the International Monetary Fund is pressing Asian regulators to lift restrictions on foreign ownership of banks and other financial institutions. Their shopping lists include Thai energy companies, Singaporean electronics groups, Hong Kong insurers and mainland manufacturers. Mercer Management consultant Larry Alberts said: 'The result is that bank takeovers in several markets in Asia, which were unthinkable only months ago, now seem inevitable. 'While regulators in the region are pressuring local banks and insurance companies to strengthen their capital positions, the IMF's position is that increased non-Asian capital and management expertise is necessary to provide stabilisation. He added: 'There are obvious financial risks that may be expected as a result of the weak banking systems, opaque lending practices and poor standards that have prevailed in these markets until recently and that require investors to undertake exhaustive due diligence.' US companies also needed to evaluate other risks specific to the Asian markets. Mr Alberts said: 'Many Asian companies are part of a family-controlled conglomerates. 'This can make investment very challenging.'