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Japanese Bank Lending Falls While Retail Giant Seeks Debt Forgiveness


Bank lending has fallen again in Japan, while one of the country's biggest retailers now is in the hands of its creditors. And Mitsubishi has given up its investment in Malaysia's Proton carmaker. Those are some of the business stories making headlines in Japan this week.

For the eighth straight year, bank lending fell in Japan in 2004. The Bank of Japan says weak demand for loans from companies still trying to pay off debts caused the four-percent drop.

Bank officials say that while 2005 may see another drop, the percentage of the decline is likely to be smaller. That is because some banks are beginning to promote unsecured loans to smaller credit-worthy companies and housing loans to individuals.

The fate of one of Japan's major retailers is now in the hands of nearly 40 creditors, which have been asked to forgive much of its debt. Supermarket chain Daiei is to be bailed out by the government-backed Industrial Revitalization Corporation.

The ailing retailer says none of its creditors have objected, so far, to forgiving 81-percent of Daiei's unsecured debt. Daiei President Toshio Hasumi says the debt waiver is one final chance for the 48-year-old company to survive.

Under a restructuring plan Daiei will withdraw from some regions, fire one-fourth of its employees and open new stores in areas where it is strongest.

Mitsubishi Corporation says it has sold all of its holdings in Malaysia's national automaker.

Japan's largest trading company says an investment firm affiliated with the Malaysian government (Khazanah Nasional) paid about $105 million for the eight-percent stake in Proton.

Mitsubishi and its automobile subsidiary took a 15-percent stake in the company when it was created in 1983. Mitsubishi Motors sold its shares last March.

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