Revival body chief claims applications are flooding in

by Tomoko Otake

More than 20 pairs of banks and borrower firms of varying sizes have applied for help from the Industrial Revitalization Corp. of Japan, IRCJ Chief Operating Officer Kazuhiko Toyama said Thursday.

Toyama, a turnaround consultant who heads the revival body’s operations, was eager to deny speculation that banks are not forthcoming with IRCJ applications, stating his organization is busy catching up with orders.

“Bankers are very active in bringing cases to us,” Toyama, 43, told journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

He added that the bank officials he deals with are as young, serious and enthusiastic about turning ailing companies around as he is.

“We don’t feel too much (need) to do marketing to banks, because (if we did that) we would lose our time to sleep,” said Toyama, who earned an MBA at Stanford University in the U.S.

The IRCJ, launched in May with a workforce of more than 70, now has 120 workers trying to revive Japan Inc.

Toyama said his experts have given up “the most productive stages of their careers” for a government enterprise that will cease to operate in five years, solely because they feel the need to help revitalize the economy.

The IRCJ is now accepting loan-sale applications from borrowers and their main creditors and is screening their restructuring plans.

If the IRCJ approves the plans, it will buy loans currently owned by nonmain banks. As a major creditor, the IRCJ will then push for restructuring at problem firms.

Toyama said the size of companies being considered varies considerably. , ranging from listed companies to small businesses. He declined to issue specific company names.

The IRCJ has said it will announce the names of companies only when it decides — following two or three months of evaluating restructuring plans — to help them. Thus far, there have been no such announcements.

The IRCJ has two years and 10 trillion yen to spend on loans to near-involvement companies. The capital was raised from the financial markets under a government guarantee.

Asked how much of corporate Japan his organization is capable of turning around, Toyama replied that it will have 5 trillion yen a year to spare, equal to just 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“This is just 1 percent. . . . The key is whether we can create a whole wave, a whole trend” of revitalization that could finally grow to save the 500 trillion yen Japanese economy, he said. “(That is) the final measure of success.”