Business

Daiei creditors to seek IRCJ help; Hawks may go

Daiei Inc.’s three main creditor banks are in the final stages of hammering out a plan to seek the help of the state-backed Industrial Revitalization Corp. of Japan to rescue the embattled retailer, sources said Friday.

Officials involved will also probably soon meet to discuss the possible sale of the Daiei Hawks professional baseball club so Daiei can concentrate on its supermarket operations, the sources said.

UFJ Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. have apparently reached an agreement to turn to IRCJ for help, after concluding that a Daiei-authored rehabilitation plan is not sufficient to resurrect its business.

They are expected to seek IRCJ assistance to accelerate bad-loan writeoffs to restore their own financial health.

If IRCJ becomes involved, Daiei would have to close or consolidate unprofitable outlets and unload stockholdings and properties. Daiei would also be forced to downsize in the areas of household goods and apparel, and concentrate more on food, the sources said.

The sources also said Daiei would have to sell OMC Card Inc., a credit card company with 7.3 million members in which Daiei has a stake of more than 20 percent, to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc.

Earlier Friday, Daiei President Kunio Takagi said he has yet to hear from the creditor banks about a plan to seek IRCJ help.

Takagi said Daiei is trying to hammer out a new rehabilitation plan with the three creditors, adding that it is his duty to gain the support of the banks’ top managers by devising a new plan at the earliest possible date.

Separately, Daiei Hawks President Hiroyuki Takahashi said: “Daiei headquarters’ policy will remain the same. Daiei will continue to own the baseball club in Fukuoka.”

If Daiei accepts IRCJ help, the main creditors may agree to offer financial aid worth about 500 billion yen, the sources said.

IRCJ is charged with helping to revive heavily indebted companies deemed otherwise viable, by buying loans held by banks other than their main banks.

The three-year rehabilitation plan Daiei drafted is said to contain 250 billion yen in financial aid, mainly from the three main banks, and halving Daiei’s interest-bearing debt to 500 billion yen.

The new rehabilitation plan will be the third of its kind for Daiei. The retailer received 120 billion yen in financial assistance, mainly from the three banks, in 2001, and 520 billion yen in 2002.

Under the current plan, the second, covering its 2002-2004 business years through next February, Daiei aims to slash its group interest-bearing debt from more than 1 trillion yen to 915 billion yen. But critics say that debt would still be too large.

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