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Friday, Nov. 9, 2007

Consumer lenders back to black after gray-zone ills


Staff writer

Major consumer lenders returned to the black in the six months to September after bleeding billions of yen in business 2006 due to a legal revision requiring them to eliminate so-called gray-zone interest rates.

According to financial results released Thursday, Promise Co., the nation's largest consumer lender by assets, posted a group net profit of ¥11.9 billion in the April-September period, against a loss of ¥159.4 billion in the same period a year before, on sales of ¥170.1 billion, down 10.7 percent.

Takefuji Corp. raked in ¥29.7 billion in group net profit, recovering from a loss of ¥144.2 billion last year.

Group net profit for Acom Co. came to ¥24.8 billion, against a loss of ¥282.1 billion.

Sales plunged for all three firms because they introduced stricter lending policies, scaring away risky borrowers.

The gray-zone rates fall between two separate rate caps for consumer loans. The Interest Rate Restrictions Law caps rates at 15 percent to 20 percent according to the size of loans, while the Investment Deposit and Interest Rate Law allows rates of up to 29.2 percent if borrowers consent to them in writing.

Under legislation enacted last December, the legal maximum lending rate will be lowered to 20 percent from the present 29.2 percent by late 2009. Lenders are voluntarily lowering rates now.

To cope with the legal change, consumer lenders booked one-time losses for reserves to repay excessive interest charges in the previous business year. They are using the reserves to cover refunds for this fiscal year.

In the first half of this business year, Promise booked ¥38.1 billion for refunds, while the figure was ¥45.5 billion for Takefuji and ¥36.4 billion for Acom.

"The amount of costs needed for refunds is leveling off," Takefuji President Hikaru Kondo said.



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