The number of corporate bankruptcies in Japan jumped 14.9 percent in April from the previous year to 1,087, with debts totaling 426.78 billion yen, and among them are contractors stung by a state crackdown on bid-rigging, Tokyo Shoko Research said Wednesday.

The debts went up 7.6 percent but were below the 1 trillion yen mark for 25 months in a row, the research agency said.

The number of firms that went under increased for the seventh consecutive month, but was the second-lowest figure for the month of April over the past 10 years.

Despite the higher number of collapsed firms, the actual state of overall business is relatively stable, thanks to the public financial assistance extended to smaller firms and the ongoing economic improvement, the research agency noted.

The data cover corporate bankruptcies accompanied by debts of 10 million yen or more.

The folding of Aoyama Kanzai Corp. did much to raise the overall debt figure as it accounted for 34.8 percent of the total. The real estate company had been liquidating nonconstruction operations transferred from Hazama Corp. as part of restructuring.

Bankruptcies with an individual debt of at least 1 billion yen slipped to 48, dipping below 50 for the first time in nine years and six months.

Bankruptcies increased in nine industrial sectors out of 10 monitored, with a decline only in the wholesale trade sector, according to the research agency.

Overall, smaller firms in regional cities constituted a high proportion of the overall corporate failures, Tokyo Shoko Research said.

Looking ahead, if regional banks decide to accelerate bad-debt disposals, bankruptcies will likely increase among their corporate borrowers, the agency added.

Tokyo Shoko Research also said the Fair Trade Commission’s increased efforts to crack down on bid-rigging by contractors trying to win public-works project contracts have already led to the collapse of some such firms.

While all macroeconomic data indicate the economy is gaining strength, the agency warned of higher oil prices and domestic interest rates, a stronger yen and anticipated curtailment in government financial assistance for smaller businesses.

According to a similar report released the same day by Teikoku Databank, the number of corporate failures came to 795 in April, up 31.4 percent from a year prior.

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