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2010 saw corporate bankruptcies slip below 14,000 for the first time in four years, but the debt they left behind rose because of big names, particularly Japan Airlines, a credit research firm said Thursday.

Bankruptcies dropped 13.9 percent to 13,321, falling for the second consecutive year, Tokyo Shoko Research said.

While the drop in failures was attributable to government measures, such as the emergency loan guarantee system and other financial aid for small businesses, the pace of decline slowed toward the end of the reporting year as the effects of the steps faded.

The liabilities that accompanied the failures totaled ¥7.16 trillion in 2010, up 3.3 percent from a year earlier. Seven large failures, however, accounted for more than half the total debt, leaving behind at least ¥100 billion each.

The three biggest failures were Japan Airlines Corp. and its two units, which left behind ¥2.32 trillion in debt, Incubator Bank of Japan with ¥680.5 billion in liabilities, and consumer lender Takefuji Corp., which failed with ¥433.6 billion in debt.

The tally covers business failures nationwide that left behind ¥10 million or more in debt, Tokyo Shoko said.

The research firm said recession-linked factors, including poor sales and an inability to collect payments, were the cause of a record-high 82.9 percent of all failures.

By industry, real estate saw a 26.0 percent drop in corporate failures to 441, the sharpest drop among the 10 surveyed industries, followed by the financial and insurance sector and the wholesale sector. The construction industry meanwhile saw failures drop 13.7 percent to 3,523, the lowest since 1994.

The agriculture, forestry, fishery and mining sector was the only one to see a rise in failures, marking a 20.7 percent gain to 93.

In December alone, corporate failures declined 2.9 percent to 1,102, marking the 17th consecutive month of decline. Their combined debts fell 16.6 percent to ¥246.48 billion.

Teikoku Databank, another private credit-research firm, said 11,658 companies went under in 2010, down 12.4 percent, accompanied by debts totaling ¥6.94 trillion, up 1.9 percent.

The surveys by the two firms cover business failures with ¥10 million or more in debts. The report by Teikoku Databank covers only corporate failures filed with courts.

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