Corporate consolidation in Japan rose 4.5 percent in fiscal 2001 due mainly to more frequent use of such new tools as equity swaps and transfers, the Fair Trade Commission said Wednesday.

In the year to March 31, there were 1,240 consolidations, with share exchanges and transfers totaling 898, up 11.7 percent. The number of mergers, however, slumped by 25.3 percent to 127, while business transfers fell 8.5 percent to 195. The number of spinoffs came to 20.

This is the first time these statistics have been available to the public; the government required companies to start reporting the data in April 2001.

The financial sector continued to account for the largest portion of large mergers, spinoffs and business transfers (those resulting in gross assets of 100 billion yen or more), being involved in 27 of 91 cases, or 29.7 percent. In fiscal 2000, the financial sector accounted for 41 of 110 large cases, or 37.3 percent.

Of the 898 share-swaps and transfers, manufacturers carried out 218, or 41.2 percent, of the 529 large cases. Foreign companies were involved in 51 of the cases overall, up from 42 in fiscal 2000.

Turning to holding companies, the FTC said it received reports of seven large consolidations, up from one the previous year. Six of those were set up by financial institutions. — major commercial, regional and trust banks.

The FTC also cited 14 high-profile consolidations, saying that in prior consultations it warned about possible violations of the Antimonopoly Law in four of the cases, including the merger of Japan Airlines and Japan Air System.

“There were a number of cases with potential impact on the market, including the JAL-JAS merger and a plan by NKK Corp. and Kawasaki Steel Corp.,” an FTC official said.

The major steelmakers’ plan to set up a holding company, however, will not affect competition, the FTC concluded.

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