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Mizuho Corporate Bank has sold some ¥1 billion of its shareholdings to the Bank of Japan under a program to boost financial institutions’ capital amid global share price plunges, sources said Thursday.

Mizuho Corporate, a core banking unit of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., is the first major bank known to have taken advantage of the central bank’s emergency program.

The BOJ restarted the purchase program Feb. 23 and has said it will buy up to ¥1 trillion in shares from banks, with some conditions, by the end of April 2010.

The program, which removes damaged assets from bank balance sheets, is intended to help strengthen lenders and encourage them to increase lending to businesses.

As of last Friday, the BOJ had bought only about ¥1.1 billion worth of bank-held shares. Many lenders are apparently reluctant to unload their shareholdings and finalize losses before the end of the current business year Tuesday.

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