• Kyodo

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The chief executive officer of accounting at scandal-hit WorldCom Inc. said Tuesday the telecommunications company plans to reduce its business in Japan in a bid to raise funds for its rehabilitation.

“We are looking at some of our assets in Japan,” John Sidgmore said at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

However, Sidgmore denied that WorldCom will completely withdraw from the Japanese market.

“We will always have a presence for our global accounts in Japan,” he said.

WorldCom, the largest carrier of Internet traffic in the world and the second-largest long-distance carrier in the United States, advanced into the Japanese market in 1998, becoming the first foreign telecom company with its own fiber-optic network.

WorldCom is now providing data communications services, mainly for companies in metropolitan areas in Japan.

Sidgmore also said his company is considering selling its assets in South America.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud charges against WorldCom last week after the company disclosed it had improperly accounted for nearly $4 billion in expenses, inflating its earnings.

Sidgmore, who took the reins of the company in April after the sudden resignation of Bernard Ebbers, said he does not know whether Ebbers, who founded WorldCom, had any prior knowledge of the accounting dodges.

Sidgmore was optimistic about negotiations between WorldCom and banks on new funding to avoid bankruptcy for the telecom carrier.

“We are working with banks even as we speak here, talking about various proposals to restructure,” he said.

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