UPDATE 2-Nomura confident in sustainable profit ahead after best Q3 in 15 yrs

* Q3 pretax profit for wholesale business 76.9 bln yen

* Wholesale segment leaner after overhaul

* To achieve cost cut target a year ahead of plan (Adds CFO comments, detail)

TOKYO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Nomura Holdings Inc expressed confidence in sustaining high profit levels after Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank reported its best third-quarter profit in 15 years on solid global markets and investment banking.

“We have narrowed down areas of focus and expanded our market share in those areas,” Chief Financial Officer Takumi Kitamura said at a briefing on Wednesday.

Having sharply lowered its break-even point, “we are confident that profitability is now far more sustainable.”

Kitamura also said the bank is likely to achieve its 140 billion yen ($1.33 billion) cost-cutting target by March, one year ahead of a plan set out two years ago.

October-December net profit jumped 72% from a year earlier to 98.4 billion yen ($937 million), its highest third-quarter profit since 2005.

Nomura’s wholesale business unit has emerged as a key profit driver in recent quarters following an overhaul two years ago that included $1 billion in cost cuts and scaling back some of its lower growth business.

The segment, which consists of the global markets and investment banking arms, posted a pretax profit of 76.9 billion yen, up 78%.

Like its Western peers, Nomura experienced a jump in markets trading stemming from the high volatility caused by uncertainty around the U.S. elections and the release of coronavirus vaccines.

Its investment banking business benefited from a rash of mergers and acquisitions, as well as emergency corporate fundraising by Japanese companies, including top airline ANA Holdings.

A strong wholesale businesses bodes well for Nomura’s ambition of becoming a global investment bank, as the bank remains a mid-sized player internationally, competing with much larger and deep-pocketed U.S. and European rivals.

It is also looking to rebuild its wealth management business in the rest of Asia and the Middle East.

The bank’s retail division, which mainly serves individual investors, posted 28.3 billion yen in pretax income, up from 17.6 billion, thanks to improving investor sentiment.

$1 = 105.0600 yen Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; editing by Stephen Coates and Jason Neely