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Saturday, April 5, 2003

IRC execs implore banks to sell bad loans


Staff writer

Newly appointed executives of the government's planned industrial revival body delivered a zealous sales pitch Friday, urging banks to sell to the entity loans extended to debt-laden firms as soon as possible.

"My message to banks and their borrowers is: 'Think of what you can do for the next generation, and come to us for advice right now,' " said Shinjiro Takagi, who is to chair an experts' committee tasked with choosing firms that will be rescued by the planned Industrial Revitalization Corp.

The entity is accepting inquiries ahead of the official start of operations next month.

Two other nominees for IRC executive posts, prospective President Atsushi Saito and prospective Chief Operating Officer Kazuhiko Toyama, were also present at the news conference, held two days after bills related to the establishment of the IRC cleared the Diet.

Takagi, a high-profile lawyer and corporate rehabilitation expert, said he wants to start work soon so the IRC can take on as many cases as possible within the legally mandated two-year loan-buying period.

The IRC is scheduled to buy up loans from financially crippled firms over the next two years, turn around their businesses and sell the loans back to the private sector within three years. The body is to be dissolved in five years.

"We want to start dealing with not just one, but 10 cases at once," he said.

In an apparent effort to nudge skeptical bankers to use the body, and rebuffing speculation that the IRC will not deal with firms that are hard to resuscitate, Takagi said that bank executives who decide to take their loans to the IRC will not be personally blamed for having made bad loans swell over the years.

"(Finance Minister Masajuro) Shiokawa has dubbed my position as the 'Lord of Hell,' but I really don't want to be called that any more," Takagi said. "I'm not going to send firms to hell, though I will scrutinize their management rehabilitation plans."

Toyama, who served as president of consulting firm Corporate Directions Inc. until last week, echoed Takagi's view, stating that the industry body will consider buying loans extended to apparently hopeless firms.

"I, in my previous job, never turned down (a patient) even when doctors gave up," he said. "As long as money lenders and borrowers have the will to recover, we will introduce them to the best doctors, write the best prescriptions and give them the best treatment."

Saito maintained that the IRC's work will not exacerbate the record high unemployment rate.

"We will do our utmost to keep down the number of people losing jobs," he said. "That's what the public wants, so we will not be allowed to do an extremely drastic job."



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