TOKYO (AP) _ U.S. financial services company American Express Co. plans to establish a securities company in Japan next year.

The company has applied to the Finance Ministry for permission to set up the venture under new rules that make it easier to launch a brokerage in Japan, said company spokemsan Mitsuo Inagaki Tuesday.

American Express hopes to sell investment funds to individual investors, but the company has not yet decided on its range of products, Inagaki said.

The move comes as many foreign financial institutions launch or expand operations in Japan to take advantage of the country's ``Big Bang'' financial deregulation reforms.

American Express applied to set up its new company under a rule change implemented this month that eases the cumbersome approval process for new brokerages, Inagaki said.

Last year, American Express established an investment-advisory business in Tokyo in its first step toward full-fledged asset management operations in Japan.