Japan’s second-largest convenience-store operator, Lawson Inc., is considering delaying a plan to directly hook up its automated teller machines with Mizuho group banks’ ATM network due to the banks’ computer troubles.

Lawson officials said Saturday the company wants to implement the hookup only after Mizuho Financial Group announces its computers are functioning properly.

The delay could deal another heavy blow to the Mizuho Financial Group, which is lagging behind other commercial banks as competition to tie up with retailers on ATMs intensifies.

Banks are trying to increase revenue from ATMs and deal with newcomers to the industry, such as IYBank, that have strong connections with supermarket and convenience store operators.

IYBank, created by major retailer Ito-Yokado Co. and its convenience-store subsidiary Seven-Eleven Japan Co., started business in May 2001.

The Mizuho group hopes to announce the end of malfunctions in early May, but uncertainty remains over whether it can clear an impending heavy volume of money transfer orders. Tuesday is the monthly settlement day for many utilities and other firms, and May 7 is the first business day after the Golden Week holidays.

Lawson, which has some 7,700 outlets nationwide, has already hooked up its machines with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UFJ Bank networks, and plans to do the same with Asahi Bank in the near future.

Mizuho’s computer woes began soon after the April 1 launch of Mizuho Bank and Mizuho Corporate Bank, created through the merger of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank and the Industrial Bank of Japan under Mizuho Holdings Inc.

According to the officials, Lawson and Fuji Bank earlier agreed to connect convenience-store ATMs to the bank’s ATM network in mid-May, which would result in lower fees for the bank’s depositors when they use Lawson machines.

Mizuho ATM cardholders can currently use Lawson machines, but the services are offered via an extra computer network connecting ATM functions at commercial banks, regional banks and some other types of financial institutions.

If Lawson ATMs are directly linked with Mizuho’s network, the user fees for Mizuho depositors who use them will be cut to almost the same levels as the user fees for Mizuho ATMs.

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