• Kyodo

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Fujisan Shokai, the nation’s largest ice cream wholesaler, filed for court protection from creditors Thursday after giving up efforts to restructure its ailing business on its own.

The Kyoto-based company took the legal action under the civil rehabilitation law with the Osaka District Court. Credit research agency Teikoku Databank Ltd. estimates the firm’s liabilities at 60 billion yen.

Fujisan Shokai’s core ice cream business has been hit hard by the low temperatures this summer, and cash flow plunged sharply as the company’s problems were compounded by losses in affiliated businesses such as its golf course investments.

Company sources said Fujisan Shokai will probably get a financial bailout once the company is placed under court protection.

UFJ Bank, Fujisan Shokai’s principal lender, earlier indicated it would provide support to Fujisan through “DIP finance,” a lending arrangement aimed at bailing out companies that go through court-sanctioned restructuring.

Fujisan Shokai, established in September 1953, accounts for roughly 20 percent of the nation’s ice cream wholesale market.

It handles the Haagen Dazs brand ice cream, as well as those of Morinaga Milk Industry Co. and Ezaki Glico Co., and delivers to some 45,000 convenience stores and supermarkets.

The company has about 1,400 employees, including about 760 in the parent firm.

After plunging to a 1.1 billion yen net loss in the business year through September 2001, Fujisan Shokai went through aggressive restructuring and ended the business year through September 2002 with 10 million yen in net losses on 131 billion yen in sales.

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