Government of Japan
Problem of Non-Performing Loans and Strength of the Japanese Economy
Section 2 The problems of non-performing loans and excessive debts: Burdens on the Japanese economy
In the previous section, we have analyzed the present state of banks' non-performing loans. In this section, we will study how "the problem of non-performing loans," the situation in which banks are saddled with a large amount of non-performing loans that do not decrease and remain at a high level for a long period, is causing the prolonged stagnation of the Japanese economy.
With regard to the relationship between non-performing loans and the economy, some argue that it is not that the problem of non-performing loans is a drag on the economy but that economic downturn is aggravating the problem of non-performing loans. As was discussed in the previous section, it is certain that economic downturn is one of the reasons why non-performing loans do not decrease. In this section, however, we will make it clear that the problem of non-performing loans has a mechanism to drag on the economy and show that solving the problem of non-performing loans is essential in order to rehabilitate the Japanese economy.
Since the problem of non-performing loans is closely related to the problem of excessive debts of firms, we will also study the mechanism by which excessive debts slow down business investment.
In the analysis below, the following points will be made clear:
(1) The problem of non-performing loans drags on the economy in the following ways: (i) disintermediation of bank-system lending caused by the erosion of banks' profitability (ii) stagnation of economic resources, such as labor and capital, in fields with low productivity and (iii) cautious behavior of corporations and consumers due to a decline in confidence in the financial system.
(2) The problem of excessive debts of firms reduces business investment.
(3) It is necessary to drastically dispose of non-performing loans and establish bank revenue sources. Economic revitalization through structural reforms will reduce the incidence of non-performing loans and support the above.
1 Disintermediation of Bank-System Lending Caused by the Erosion of Banks' Profitability
The first mechanism by which the problem of non-performing loans drags on the economy is that banks' intermediary function declines as non-performing loans erode banks' profitability.
Banks play an important role of allocating and distributing people' s savings for use in most productive investment. Banks' intermediary function is essential for economic activity as it enhances the productivity and efficiency of the economy as a whole. If banks' amount of disposal of non-performing loans continue to exceed their profits, however, it will reduce banks' net worth and lower their risk-taking capacity, making it difficult to invest funds in risky projects and to realize potentially productive businesses. We will see that, in this way, the problem of non-performing loans lowers banks' intermediary function.
Decline in risk-taking capacity due to erosion of profitability
Non-performing loans erode banks' profitability in the following two ways:
First, non-performing loans incur heavy disposal expenses. As was pointed out in the previous section, the cost for disposal of non-performing loans has exceeded banks' net business profits (profits from the core banking business) since the middle of the 1990s. Simply making provisions for credit losses (indirect write-off) and postponing the final disposal of non-performing loans would cause additional losses, if the collateral value of land declined. Disposal expenses include such additional losses.
Second, holding non-performing loans for a long time without disposing them would incur costs other than the amount of disposal of non-performing loans. That is to say, by continuing to hold non-performing loans, or assets that do not generate returns, banks would lose returns that they would have earned if they had collected the loans (this is called "opportunity cost" )(7).
The incidence of a large amount of fresh non-performing loans is continuing due to the deterioration of business confidence, in addition to the erosion of profitability and an increase in costs, putting a downward pressure on banks' net worth. A decline of the net worth, which is a managerial buffer for banks, is expected to lower banks' ability to take risks, such as acquiring new customers and investing in growth fields(8).
Although the businesses required for banks have changed drastically, such as setting an interest margin corresponding to borrower' s credit risk, establishing highly profitable new business models, and tapping new projects, banks have to give priority to the non-performing loans problem and unable to allocate labor and other managerial resources on forward-looking tasks that establish revenue sources.
Economic stagnation in the 1990s and banks' cautious lending attitude
In what way does the decline in banks' risk-taking capacity drag on the economy? Its direct impact is seen in the form of a restraint on corporate business investment as banks become cautious about lending. In particular, it has a large impact on small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have major fund procurement means other than internal funds and bank borrowing (Figure 2-2-1 ). The extreme case of the impact of the decline in banks' risk-taking capacity is what is called "credit crunch." In order to see if the decline in banks' risk-taking capacity had something to do with the stagnation of the Japanese economy in the 1990s, we will study the relationship between banks' lending attitude and small and medium-sized enterprises' business investment in the 1990s.
Business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises posted sharp decreases twice during the 1990s: 1992
1994 and 1997
1998 (Figure 2-2-2 ). We will study the reasons for the decreases. In a nutshell, the 1992
1994 decrease was mainly due to a decline in demand for funds on the part of corporate borrowers, while the 1997
1998 decrease was mainly due to the problem of a "credit crunch" on the part of fund suppliers.
During the period from 1992 to 1994, the diffusion index for lending attitude of financial institutions toward small and medium-sized enterprises (Figure 2-2-3 ) had dropped to the lowest level since 1981 due to tight-money policies that were in place until July 1991, but it gradually began to rise after 1992 thanks to a series of monetary easing policies (in other words, the lending attitude became easy)(9). However, business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises continued to post a year-to-year decline during the period from 1992 to 1994. Lending interest rates continued to decline during the same period. In the light of the fact that business investment decreased amid easier lending attitude of financial institutions and continuing decline in lending interest rates, it can be said that the decrease in business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises during the 1992
1994 period was mainly due to weakened demand for business investment caused by a perception of excessive capital stock created by over-investment during the period of the bubble economy, rather than the factors on the part of fund suppliers.
However, this does not mean that there was no problem on the part of banks, which supply funds to firms. Before the 1990s, when the economy was in a recession phase and interest rates were low, banks actively created actual demand for funds and promoted business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises and thus contributed to an early recovery of the economy(10). However, banks were less active in promoting such investment during the 1992
1994 period and thereafter, as there were no signs that an increase in business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises would contribute to economic recovery.
Next, we will see the situation during the period from 1997 to 1998, when business investment decreased. During this period, banks' net worth decreased due to the increase in non-performing loans and the decline in latent profits caused by lower stock prices. As a result, banks' lending attitude became suddenly severe and loans to small and medium-sized enterprises decreased (Figure 2-2-2 ), and this, in turn, drastically decreased business investment by such enterprises(11). In short, there was a fairly tangible "credit crunch" during the 1997
1998 period(12). A group of scholars estimated that, even if the portion of decline in willingness to invest caused by worsening business performance is taken into account, the impact of the deterioration in lending attitude alone lowered the economic growth rate by more than 1%(13).
However, the situation improved thanks to measures to ensure the stability of the financial system, including a framework to replenish the capital base of financial institutions with public funds (capital increase of a total of ¥1.8 trillion in March 1998), and measures against the credit-crunch toward small and medium-sized enterprises(14).
The above analyses show that, of the two phases of decrease in business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises in the 1990s, the decrease in the 1992
1994 period was mainly caused by corporations' sluggish demand for funds and that, as for the decrease in the 1997
1998 period, there was a fairly tangible "credit crunch."
Assessment of the situation after the 1997
1998 financial crisis
The kind of severe "credit crunch" that was seen during the 1997
1998 financial crisis is not taking place now. However, despite the extraordinarily easy monetary policies, the recovery of lending attitude still remains weak (Figure 2-2-3 )(15). As will be discussed below, although the decline in banks' risk-taking capacity caused by the problem of non-performing loans is not so serious as it was during the 1997
1998 period, it is still dragging on the Japanese economy.
In order to study this point, we will take a look at the recent situation of banks' lending and their lending attitude. As for banks' lending, it continues to post about 2% year-to-year declines (excluding special factors, such as sales of loans). The decrease in lending is not necessarily due to problems on the part of banks alone. That is, firms are restraining fresh borrowing because, first of all, their demand for money is weak as can be seen from the low level of firm' s expected growth rate (future economic growth rate forecast by firms), and also they are trying to reduce excessive debts. The adjustment of balance sheets on the part of corporations is going on especially among the industries and companies that had sharply increased borrowing during the period of the bubble economy. The lending attitude of financial institutions, though its recovery is weaker than in the past phases of easy monetary policies, is not as severe as it was during the 1997
Even so, despite the extraordinarily easy monetary policies now in place, lending continues to decrease and the recovery of lending attitudes toward small and medium-sized enterprises remains weak. The lending attitude toward small and medium-sized enterprises with higher default risks is worsening again after returning from the lower level of 1998. And as stated before, economic recovery led by business investment by small and medium-sized enterprises that was often seen during the period of easy monetary policies in the past is nowhere in sight. The decline in banks' risk-taking capacity may have something to do with this.
Banks haven' t committed themselves to the sectors to which they have not placed emphasis so far, such as housing loans and consumer loans, and to introduce new types of lending (middle-risk, middle-return lending, project finance, etc.). This is because banks are being forced to engage in backward-looking tasks to dispose of non-performing loans.
2 Economic resources, such as labor and capital, are stagnating in fields of low productivity
The second mechanism by which the problem of non-performing loans drags on the economy is that economic resources, such as labor, management resources, capital, and land, are stagnating in fields with low profitability and low productivity, and that they are not allocated to highly profitable, highly productive fields.
The expected role of banks is, with regard to companies having profitable businesses, to support them when they are financially in trouble and, with regard to companies not having profitable businesses, to collect past loans at an appropriate time and reconstruct such companies. In the 1990s, such an appropriate selection may not have been made (See Column 2-2 "Changing Corporate Governance in Japanese Companies" ).
Was bank lending directed to industries with high profitability? A study of the relationship between rate of return and growth of loans by type of industry shows that lending increased to the real estate and service industries whose rates of return were sluggish in the first half of the 1990s (Figure 2-2-4 ).
There are two ways of increasing lending: one by developing new borrowers and lending to new businesses and the other by increasing lending not to new borrowers but to existing borrowers. While there is little problem with the expansion of new borrowers, the increase in lending to existing borrowers is problematic because the increase may have been made simply to keep the existing borrowers afloat, suggesting that an appropriate disposal of loans may have been postponed. In order to determine which of the above two caused the lending increase in the mid-1990s, let' s take a look at the lending amount per small and medium-sized enterprises (Figure 2-2-5 ). The lending amount per case is likely to decrease if lending is made to new borrowers, while it is likely to increase if lending is made to existing borrowers. It increased in every industry during the latter half of the 1980s. During the first half of the 1990s, or after the collapse of the bubble economy, it did not increase in the manufacturing industry, while it kept increasing in the real estate and retail industries whose business performance was sluggish, as well as in the financial and insurance industries, which includes non-bank financial institutions(17). This suggests that the lending was made to keep the corporate borrowers afloat.
Was bank lending made to highly productive industries? In order to study this point, let' s compare the productivity growth of corporate borrowers as a whole with that of the economy as a whole (Figure 2-2-6 ). Productivity growth of corporate borrowers of bank loans is obtained by weighting industry-by-industry productivity growth with the industry-by-industry outstanding balance of bank lending. Results of the analysis show that although "the productivity growth of corporate borrowers as a whole" was higher than "the productivity growth of the economy as a whole" in the first half of the 1980s, the former has been lower than the latter since the mid-1980s. This indicates that the margin of the productivity growth is lower in the industries with a large amount of loans and that the average productivity growth rate of corporate borrowers is low. Behind the decline in productivity are the facts that inefficient firms have survived due to the postponement of disposal and that supply within one industry has become excessive, eroding the profitability of other companies in the same industry.
It is also pointed out that increased uncertainties about corporate clients is discouraging forward-looking investment to establish corporate networks (problem of disorganization).
Changing Corporate Governance in Japanese Companies
Generally speaking, corporate managers do not necessarily manage their companies efficiently to maximize the value attributed to shareholders, or owners of the companies. They may adopt risky projects that interested parties, such as shareholders, financial institutions, and corporate bondholders, do not want. This is partly because corporate managers have incentives to place their own interests ahead of the company' s interests ( "moral hazard" ) while shareholders and creditors can observe the behavior of corporate managers only partially ( "asymmetry of information" ). In order to realize efficient corporate management, it is essential not only to supervise and discipline corporate managers so that they do not take these kinds of actions but also to provide incentives for efficient corporate management. Arrangements that not only discipline corporate managers but also provide incentives for efficient management are called corporate governance.
Some argue that in Japan, where many corporations rely on bank borrowing for their fund procurement, main banks that are the largest creditors and at the same time major shareholders have performed the function of corporate governance, supervising and disciplining corporate managers, by making the best use of their expertise and financial and management information on corporations in question. It is also said that when corporations were faced with financial difficulties, banks took part in the management of the corporations by dispatching executives and helped avoid unnecessary business failures. There are empirical studies that show that the governance by main banks reduced corporations' fund procurement costs.
In and after the second half of the 1980s, however, corporations, especially large enterprises, increased fund procurement from the capital market and became less dependent on banks. Having lost good corporate customers, banks increased lending to small and medium-sized enterprises and some service industries, such as construction and real estate, that were on the crest of the bubble economy of inflated land prices. However, with the bubble bursting, some of the loans became uncollectible and non-performing loans. This suggests that corporate governance led by main banks did not function efficiently. Moreover, judging from the business performance of the corporations that had been rescued from financial difficulties by main banks, the rescue was not necessarily successful. Some even argue that corporate governance by main banks did not function well from the very beginning.
With corporations increasingly turning to markets for fund procurement, the main players in corporate governance have begun to shift from being main banks to market participants, such as institutional investors. According to a recent survey, corporations active in increasing fund procurement from the market are more aware of the importance of corporate governance than other corporations.
The recognition of the effectiveness of the conventional corporate governance led by main banks has changed significantly.
3 Corporations and Consumers Have Become Cautious Due to a Decline in Confidence in the Financial System
The third mechanism by which the problem of non-performing loans drags on the economy is that a decline in confidence in the financial system caused by bank failures, etc. made corporations and consumers cautious, reducing business investment and private consumption. That is to say, an increase in uncertainty relating to the business condition of financial institutions and the financial system as a whole increases uncertainty of management of corporate borrowers and this, in turn, increases uncertainty about households' future income through its impact on employment. Furthermore, this would invite anxiety of consumers as depositors and instability of stock markets.
In the 1997
98 financial crisis, a sharp decline in confidence in the financial system reduced personal consumption and business investment, plunging the Japanese economy into a serious situation. Now, a greatly enhanced framework to cope with a financial crisis is in place. Moreover, the economic situation now is less serious than in those days, as corporate profits stay at a high level thanks to the economic recovery in 1999
2000. Therefore, a similar financial crisis is not likely to happen. Still, as was pointed out in the previous section, it is hard to say that the market' s concerns about and distrust toward financial institutions have been dispelled, as the actual amount of bad debt write-offs and the incidence of
fresh non-performing loans continue to exceed banks' earlier estimates.
Now, we will study what consumers and corporations think of the current financial system and the management of financial institutions. According to the Public Opinion Survey on Household Savings and Consumption, by the Bank of Japan, when asked how they react to bankruptcy of financial institutions, the proportions of respondents citing "Anxiety about one' s savings deposited in financial institutions" and "Anxiety about adverse impacts on one' s job and income" increased to 51% and 42%, respectively (Figure 2-2-7. Upper figure). And when asked about their changes in behavior and awareness following reports of financial unrest/bankruptcy of financial institutions, the proportion of respondents citing "Withheld consumption" increased to 20%. This shows that, though it is 20% of the total, consumers have become cautious due to a decline in confidence in the financial system.
The Small and Medium Enterprise Agency conducted a survey on the image of financial institutions held by small and medium-sized enterprises. It shows that corporate managers' confidence in the stability of financial institutions ( "banks will not go bankrupt" ) has declined sharply since the financial system unrest in 1997
1998. It also shows that banks' image as the final supporter when one is in financial trouble ( "Main banks will in the end support our company when we are in financial difficulty." ) has dropped sharply (Figure 2-2-7. Lower figure).
4 Adverse Impacts of Excessive Debts of Corporations
We have so far studied the mechanisms by which the problem of non-performing loans drags on the Japanese economy. However, it is also believed that the problem of excessive debts of corporations also drags on the economy. Since all excessive debts are not non-performing loans, the problem of non-performing loans is not necessarily equal to the problem of excessive debts. However, the problem of excessive debts is closely related to the problem of non-performing loans in the point that excessive debts strain corporate management and that some of the excessive debts have already or could become non-performing loans.
Excessive debts could discourage appropriate business investment from the aspects of both fund supply and fund demand.
With regard to the aspect of fund supply, since loans are usually extended to corporations rather than to individual projects in Japan, banks decide whether or not to extend loans on the basis of the average profitability of corporations, including the corporations' capacity to repay existing loans, rather than on the basis of the profitability of new projects. Therefore, funds may not be provided smoothly to corporations saddled with excessive debts, even if the corporations have new and good (that is, highly profitable) investment projects.
With regard to the aspect of fund demand, since corporations saddled with excessive debts tend to refrain from taking on fresh loans and give priority to repayment of debts and since their risk-taking capacity is small due to their low equity ratio, they are not willing to implement new investment projects and, therefore, they do not create fund demand. From both aspects of the above, the existence of excessive debts is believed to discourage business investment.
Then, to what extent did excessive debts reduce business investment? Supposing that the "debt balance / sales" ratio, which stood at a high level in the first half of the 1990s, would have remained at a low level of the first half of the 1980s, we estimate that it would have raised business investment by about 8% in the second half of the 1990s (For detailed calculation methods, see Appended Note 2-2).
5 Final Disposal of Non-Performing Loans and Corporate Restructuring
As was described above, the problem of non-performing loans of banks is believed to have dragged on the Japanese economy in the 1990s. The problem that banks themselves have to tackle immediately is (1) drastic disposal of non-performing loans and establishment of bank revenue sources. In addition, (2) economic revitalization through structural reforms will curb the incidence of non-performing loans and support the above.
Since the problem of non-performing loans has put serious adverse effects on the economy, the government has implemented various policy measures for drastic disposal of non-performing loans and securing confidence in the financial system. The government measures can be classified into the following three points:
(1) Prodding banks into final disposal of non-performing loans by setting a deadline
(2) Providing frameworks for easy disposal of non-performing loans and for corporate restructuring
(3) Securing confidence in the financial system
The government has so far left the final disposal of non-performing loans to banks' voluntary efforts and has not set a deadline for the disposal. In reality, however, banks have failed to make voluntary efforts and postponed the final disposal of non-performing loans for the reasons that they cannot escape from the bonds of being main banks and that the framework for corporate restructuring is inadequate. For drastic disposal of non-performing loans, it is essential that the government should set a deadline and prod banks into final disposal.
But, simply setting a deadline is not enough. The absence of frameworks that will facilitate disposal, including one for corporate restructuring, has much to do with the slow progress in the disposal of non-performing loans. Therefore, it is necessary for the government to provide frameworks that will make it easy for banks to dispose of non-performing loans. They include improvement of bankruptcy laws, such as Civil Rehabilitation Law. At the same time, the government should request banks and other parties concerned to establish rules for private liquidation.
At a time when economic conditions are declining like now, the government should take appropriate measures so as to ensure the soundness of bank' s assets and that confidence will not be lost in the financial system.
Next, we will explain how the government is tackling the problem of drastic disposal of non-performing loans in the Emergency Economic Package adopted in April 2001, the "Basic Policies" adopted in June, and the Front-Loaded Reform Program adopted in October. We will also study how banks should address the problem of establishing revenue sources.
Government measures: (1) Setting deadlines for final disposal
The government will take measures so that major banks (15 banks) complete final disposal (clearing from the balance sheet) of existing non-performing loans (loans to borrowers that need attention or riskier borrowers) within two years and fresh non-performing loans within three years. The government has designated the next 2
3 years as an intensive adjustment period for structural reforms and intends to normalize the problem of non-performing loans within the three years. That is to say, the government intends to lower the bad debt ratio (bad debts / loan balance) from the 5% level at present to the 3.5
4% level within three years and the credit cost ratio (loss on disposal of non-performing loans / loan balance) to about 0.2
0.3% from 1.4% in 2000.
The above measures cover only major banks. However, the final disposal of non-performing loans by major banks, or the main banks of corporations saddled with such loans, is expected to promote final disposal of non-performing loans by other financial institutions that have extended loans to such corporations.
Government measures: (2) Providing frameworks for easy disposal of non-performing loans and for corporate restructuring
In order to lower the bad debt ratio of banks, it is necessary to curb the incidence of fresh non-performing loans through restructuring of corporate borrowers and to establish frameworks that are conducive to final disposal of non-performing loans. The government will support final disposal of non-performing loans by taking the following measures with regard to various methods for final disposal: (1) cession of credits, (2) legal liquidation, and (3) private liquidation (See Column 2-3 "What is final disposal of non-performing loans?" ).
First, with regard to cession of credits, the government will enhance the bad debt disposal function of the Resolution and Collection Corporation (RCC; a quasi-public joint stock company invested in by the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan). The government has granted trust banking status to the RCC so that it can engage in securitization business in addition to purchases of loans, and the RCC has already engaged in trust banking business. The government will also make the price-setting formula more flexible in order to facilitate purchases of non-performing loans by the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan and the RCC.
Second, with regard to legal liquidation, the government will improve the Corporate Rehabilitation Law and the Civil Rehabilitation Law.
Third, with regard to private liquidation, the government, in the Emergency Economic Package, has called on parties concerned to prepare guidelines on private liquidation immediately in order to set procedures for adjustment of rights and obligations of the parties concerned. In response, a study panel set up by the Japanese Bankers Association and the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations prepared and published "Guidelines on Private Liquidation" in September 2001. The guidelines call on corporate borrowers to prepare strict restructuring programs incorporating, among others, requirements that (1) they have to post an ordinary profit and effectively liquidate excessive debts possibly within three years and (2) when they have their debts abandoned, the accountability of shareholders must be made clear and executives have to retire, in principle. The requirements will prevent easygoing abandonment of credits. The clarification of adjustment procedures for private liquidation among parties concerned is expected to facilitate corporate restructuring.
In addition, as a means to facilitate smooth restructuring of corporations, the government will establish such systems as DIP finance by governmental financial institutions(18).
Incidentally, as for the disposal of non-performing loans, the Deposit Insurance Corporation and the RCC can tackle corporate restructuring in a positive manner through the Front-Loaded Reform Program: (1) Making loans from the DBJ (Development Bank of Japan) and other public financial institutions available to companies under restructuring to facilitate corporate restructuring by the RCC, (2) Requesting the DBJ, private investors and the RCC, etc. to set up and/or participate in funds for corporate restructuring. This fund will buy shares issued by companies with promising restructuring plans (shares obtained by banks through debt equity swaps) and help those companies to realize the plans, and (3) Requesting the RCC to be actively involved in the restructuring of not only large enterprises but also small and medium-sized enterprises, by utilizing the new frameworks.
Government measures: (3) Securing confidence in the financial system
As pointed out before, in order to dissolve the situation in which corporations and consumers have become cautious along with the decline in confidence toward the financial system, it is necessary for the government to ensure soundness of banks' assets and restore confidence in the financial system. To that end, the government will take the following measures:
(1) Drastically reinforcing inspections of banks
The government will drastically reinforce inspections of banks by increasing the frequency of comprehensive inspection and conducting follow-up inspections.
(2) Securing appropriate reserves/write-offs
The government will request banks to reflect market signals, such as business performance, stock prices and credit rating, in their assessment of assets and conduct special inspections in order to secure appropriate write-offs/reserves. This will secure enough reserves for loans to such listed companies as those requiring special attention due to a plunge of their stock prices.
Incidentally, in case of a financial system crisis, the government will inject public funds (up to ¥15 trillion) based on the Revised Deposit Insurance Law and take all possible measures.
What is Final Disposal of Non-Performing Loans?
Generally speaking, disposal of non-performing loans by financial institutions first takes the form of "indirect write-off," or building up reserves for possible future losses without reducing the outstanding balance of loans, and then proceeds to "final disposal," or clearing of non-performing loans off from one' s balance sheets.
There are three forms of final disposal, depending on the method for determining losses: (1) cession of credits, (2) legal liquidation (what is called bankruptcy), and (3) private liquidation (mainly through corporate restructuring by debt forgiveness).
Cession of credits means selling credits to third parties. It often takes the form of a "bulk sale," under which a number of credits to different debtors are sold in bulk. The corporate debtors will then be restructured by new creditors or liquidated through legal liquidation.
The difference between legal liquidation and private liquidation is whether the disposal of the corporation in question requires judicial procedures (legal liquidation) or not (private liquidation).
Under legal liquidation, loss sharing for liabilities of the corporation will be strictly implemented based on bankruptcy laws (the Civil Rehabilitation Law, the Corporate Rehabilitation Law, etc.). There are two types of legal liquidation: a restructuring type (civil rehabilitation, corporate rehabilitation, etc.), under which efforts will be made to restructure the corporation, while repaying the remaining debts in accordance with a court-approved restructuring plan, and a liquidation type (bankruptcy, special liquidation), under which all property of the corporation will be disposed of for repayment of debts and the corporation will cease to exist.
Under private liquidation, major creditors, such as financial institutions, hold private consultations and determine loss sharing. Generally speaking, the major creditors agree to forgive the portion of excessive debts that would make it impossible for the corporation to restructure itself, and let the corporation repay the remaining debts in the course of restructuring. However, the private liquidation method is sometimes used to liquidate corporations with liabilities in excess of assets. The financial institutions reclassify the debts that were not forgiven as normal loans on the ground that the restructuring plan has been put into action.
The number of bankruptcies in FY 2000 was 18,787, with liquidation-type bankruptcies (mostly legal liquidation), mostly small enterprises, accounted for 96.0% (Tokyo Shoko Research). Meanwhile, of the actual amount of final disposal by 16 major banks (second half of FY 2000), the liquidation-type legal liquidation accounted for about 10%. Although this figure does not include the amount collected through disposal of collateral, it is not large compared with that in terms of the number of cases (cession of credits accounted for about 17%, restructuring-type legal liquidation and private liquidation combined accounted for about 18%, and the combined total of funds collected through disposal of collateral and the loans that have become normal as a result of private liquidation accounted for about 56%).
It can be said from the above that the restructuring-type disposal is mainly use for large enterprises and the liquidation-type disposal for small enterprises.
Banks need to establish revenue sources
As is seen in the above, the government is making efforts to promote final disposal of non-performing loans. However, the problem of non-performing loans will not be solved without voluntary efforts on the part of banks.
Banks must drastically dispose of non-performing loans and, at the same time, they must establish revenue sources. This is partly because they need revenue sources to finance disposal of non-performing loans and partly because, even if they got rid of non-performing loans, banks' intermediary function would not be restored, if their profit margins from core banking business remained low at the present level.
Therefore, banks should review their conventional banking businesses and start providing loans to risky projects with sufficient margins under appropriate risk management. They should also expand the businesses that they have not been enthusiastic about so far, such as housing loans and consumer loans, and positively develop new business models, such as corporate restructuring. It is also necessary for them not to view non-performing loans simply as a burden but as a new business chance. The existence of a large amount of non-performing loans means there are big business opportunities related to non-performing loans, such as trading and collection of non-performing loans and corporate restructuring. Taking advantage of such opportunities is expected to facilitate disposal of non-performing loans.
Under the principle of "let the private sector do what it can do". the government should review public financial institutions so that they would not deprive private financial institutions of profit opportunities. When banks that received injection of public funds into their capital base, (22 banks at present), failed to pay dividends on the preferred stocks underwritten by the government, the preferred stocks will have voting rights. In such a case, the government should strictly and properly exercise the rights and urge the banks to prepare "drastic measures to improve profitability" and establish "a responsible management setup" to secure the implementation of the measures(19).
If the market appreciates a bank' s efforts to improve their profitability, it would make it possible for the bank to raise funds on the capital market and thus replenish its capital base. This should be the basic approach to the settlement of the problem.
In order to improve profitability, banks should first streamline operations, establish new businesses, and slash costs. If it is still difficult to improve profitability, the management of the bank should consider a merger or tie-up with other banks as one of the options. If the bank were still unable to improve profitability, then, the bank would be forced out of the market.
Short-term adverse effects of final disposal on the economy
Lastly, we will study short-term adverse effects that the final disposal of non-performing loans will have on the Japanese economy.
A report on "study projects concerning effects of balance sheet adjustment "(June 2001) prepared by a task force in the Cabinet Office estimates effects of the disposal of non-performing loans on the labor market.
The report is based on the following ideas: Suppose that major banks carry out final disposal of (existing) loans to borrowers in danger of bankruptcy or riskier borrowers within two years. Non-performing loans are to be disposed of by cession of credits, private liquidation, or legal liquidation. However, since the effect on employment differs depending on whether it is a liquidation type or a restructuring type, the numbers of persons who have to change jobs (job losers) are counted for each type by taking characteristics of each industry into consideration. Since some of the job losers withdraw from the labor force and some others find re-employment, the number of job losers excluding such persons is the number of unemployed persons(20).
The report estimates the number of job losers at 390,000
600,000 and the number of unemployed persons at 130,000
It is necessary to keep in mind that the result of estimation differs greatly depending on whether disposal of fresh non-performing loans is taken into account or not, and whether further worsening of the economy caused by an increase in unemployment is taken into account or not. Still, the above estimate gives us a rough indicator of the magnitude of the effect, that is to say, whether the increase in the number of unemployed persons caused by disposal of non-performing loans is at the 100,000 level or far exceeds that level.
In promoting structural reforms, the disposal of non-performing loans will inevitably have adverse effects on employment to some extent. However, it is necessary to promote forward-looking policies that will create jobs in new growth fields, while easing such adverse effect as much as possible by establishing a safety net, etc.