Financial institutions in Japan provided 212,000 financing consultations between Feb. 1 and March 19 to businesses affected by COVID-19, it has been learned.

In 5,800 cases, lenders agreed to change the terms of loans at the request of struggling borrower companies between March 10 and 19, an emergency survey by the Financial Services Agency published Thursday also showed. Of them, 2,600 cases involved regional banks.

The government is asking financial institutions to consider loan repayment moratoriums to prevent businesses from experiencing a financing crunch, since many companies close their books at the end of the month on Tuesday.

The findings are part of the interim results of the FSA's special hearings conducted on major banks, regional lenders, shinkin banks and shinkumi credit cooperatives.

The changes in loan terms reported by the surveyed lenders included principal moratoriums of around six months, interest rate reviews and repayment rescheduling.

The survey results showed there were cases in which financing requests by existing customers had been approved at the discretion of branch managers within one or two days.

Financial institutions have been making efforts to provide money flexibly, including through funds that make loan decisions within a day of application.

Concerns over business financing are growing in particular among small companies, spurred by travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FSA is also asking financial institutions to report, by around Tuesday, their assistance to struggling borrowers under Article 24 of the banking law and other rules. Details of their assistance will be published later.

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