No accord yet on holding firms; deadline Feb. 24

The ruling coalition moved closer to agreement Feb. 21 on revising the Antimonopoly Law to lift a 50-year-old ban on holding companies. However, it failed for the second time this week to meet a deadline for settling the issue.

A project team comprising members of the Liberal Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake now hopes to reach a final conclusion on Feb. 24, coalition officials said. They were initially expected to reach an agreement on Feb. 20.

The three parties reconfirmed their basic position to lift the ban on the formation of holding companies and the need to prevent an excessive concentration of corporate power. “We have almost finished our discussions but some sticking points still remain,” said Taku Yamasaki, chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council.

Yamasaki said that he and the two other cochairmen of the project team — Kazuo Oikawa of the SDP and Seiichi Mizuno of Sakigake — have been entrusted to make final adjustments and reach a conclusion by Feb. 24. As a way to avoid excessive concentration, the Fair Trade Commission has proposed continuing the ban on three types of holding companies, namely, mammoth holding companies with groupwide assets exceeding 20 trillion yen, holding companies under which ordinary companies and major financial institutions are held together, and holding companies that dominate certain industries.

The LDP and Sakigake basically endorse the FTC’s proposal, but the SDP contends that groupwide assets should be limited to 10 trillion yen. The FTC has also proposed that holding companies with more than 500 billion yen in groupwide assets must report to government authorities.