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Sogo Co. said Thursday the Tokyo District Court has certified that the department store chain, which went under in 2000, has successfully completed legal rehabilitation procedures under the Civil Corporate Revival Law.

The court decision means Sogo has accomplished the process two years earlier than originally planned.

The end of the court-mandated rehabilitation will give the retailer greater freedom in its business operations. This is expected to accelerate Sogo’s moves to enhance ties with Seibu Department Stores Ltd. with an eye to future management integration.

When Sogo went belly up in July 2000, the giant retailer, with 21 domestic outlets and 14 overseas stores, had debts of 1.87 trillion yen.

After the court approved its rehabilitation request, the firm shut down unprofitable outlets; it now has 11.

Sogo’s business returned to the black in its 2001 business year to Feb. 28, 2001, when an operating profit of 1 billion yen was logged.

With the results, Sogo returned to the black 18 months earlier than it had planned under the program.

It is expected to post an operating profit of more than 6 billion yen when it closes its books for the 2002 business year at the end of next month.

In December, Sogo solicited applications from 450 employees on the regular payroll to retire before the mandatory retirement age.

In addition, it plans to eliminate 550 part-time jobs by Feb. 28.

The store has sought to revive its financial health in cooperation with Seibu which sent in its former president and chairman, Shigeaki Wada, as president of the Sogo group.

Last February, Sogo and Seibu began jointly purchasing merchandise and are considering enhancing the tieup.

Wada may assume the presidency of Seibu Department Stores in the future, while still working as president of the Sogo supervisory firm, company sources said.

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