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Financial institutions appear to have loosened their lending stance toward large companies, but small and midsize firms continue to suffer from the credit crunch, Mitsuo Horiuchi, head of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, said Friday.

According to the ministry’s latest credit survey, conducted in mid-May, only 14.9 percent of large companies report having difficulty securing loans from banks and other financial institutions, compared to 31.9 percent in March.

But the situation improved only slightly for smaller companies, with 30.8 percent facing a stricter lending stance by financial institutions, down from a high of 32.5 percent in March.

Speaking at a news conference earlier in the day, Horiuchi said the situation for smaller companies is likely to improve as the government plans to expand the scope of firms eligible for loans from quasi-governmental financial institutions.

A bill to expand the definition of firms eligible for such loans is now under deliberation in the Diet. However, Friday’s report shows that roughly half of the companies, regardless of size, expect a stricter lending stance by financial institutions in the coming months.

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