The government will start screening financial institutions to take over state-administered Ashikaga Bank as early as September, Financial Services Minister Kaoru Yosano said Friday.

“I feel that the time is ripening,” Yosano said at a regular news conference, referring to when the government will begin the process to select the new management for the regional bank, based in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.

Yosano said Ashikaga Bank is making progress in its rehabilitation and the selection process will soon start. The aim is to find a group by the end of March, but no date has been set for the handover, the minister said.

Several Kanto regional banks, major banks and investment funds linked to securities companies have shown interest in taking over the bank. The government is expected to pick the new owners through a bidding process.

The government put Ashikaga Bank, founded in 1895, under provisional state control in 2003 after it filed for bankruptcy.

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