Canada.

The $14 billion-asset finance company, controlled by Japan's Fuji Bank, will offer leasing, real estate finance, and merger-and-acquisitions advice to small and midsize Canadian companies.

"With the strong Canadian economy and the country's proximity to the U.S., the Canadian market presents a tremendous opportunity for us," said Heller Financial chairman and chief executive officer Richard J. Almeida.

Heller now has offices in 23 countries.

The Canadian operation, in Toronto, will concentrate on manufacturers and distributors of computer and office equipment, telecommunications technology, and light-industrial machines. Heller got into this business in November when it acquired Dana Commercial Credit, a Toledo, Ohio-based leasing finance company it renamed Heller Global Vendor Finance.

"They have become quite interested in small-ticket leasing and vendor finance since they bought Dana last year," said Reilly E. Tierney, an analyst with Fox-Pitt, Kelton Inc. in New York. "They want to be the financing partner that can meet the needs of customers in any market, and now a lot of vendors are looking for international capabilities."

Heller competes in this arena with commercial banking companies including Fleet Financial Group, which is considered one of the top in vendor finance, Mr. Tierney said.

However, asset-based lenders such as Heller tend to focus more on customers with international operations, which requires a familiarity with complex regulations and a stricter attention to collateral.

Heller opened the Toronto office in response to requests from customers who need commercial real estate financing in Canada, said Warren Appotive, chief executive officer of the Canadian operation. "Many of our U.S. clients doing business in Canada have encouraged us to expand our operations there," he said. "As they cross the border, they want to keep and use the same source of financing.''

Heller's expansion northward will also help it serve U.S. middle-market companies hoping to acquire subsidiaries in Canada. Its corporate finance operations will provide acquisition financing for Canadian companies, the company said.

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