Japanese Banks Swing to Profit

Japanese Banks Swing to Profit
TOKYO—Two Japanese banks reported swings to net profit Wednesday, as lower credit costs and a broad market recovery underwrote a rebound to profitability.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan's largest banking group by market capital and assets, returned to the black in the April-December period compared with the year-earlier period, when the financial crisis triggered massive losses due to equity holdings and increased bad loans.

Midsize lender Shinsei Bank Ltd., meanwhile, posted a net profit for its fiscal third quarter, buoyed by reduced credit costs and increased revenue from its consumer finance business.

Mitsubishi UFJ posted a group net profit of 217.07 billion yen ($2.4 billion) for the nine months ended Dec. 31, up from a 42.07 billion yen loss in the year-earlier period.

The Tokyo-based bank said writedowns related to its exposure to Japan Airlines Corp. were reflected in the earnings. As of March 31, MUFG had about 73.89 billion yen in loan exposure to the failed airline.

Group revenue decreased 13% to 3.775 trillion yen from 4.347 trillion yen. MUFG didn't disclose third-quarter figures.

MUFG's solid results underscored the view that Japanese banks are emerging from their lowest point the previous year, when bad loans swelled amid the economic downturn and the market turmoil led to hefty losses from equity holdings.

But Japanese banks still face concerns, such as economic instability and sluggish lending demand. What's more, the global trend toward stricter capital requirements for financial institutions has pushed bank executives to review their capital policies and business strategies.

MUFG raised about one trillion yen in capital via common shares in December. Another major bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., raised more than 900 billion yen through a public stock offering last month.

Separately, MUFG said it will buy back 100 million preferred shares worth 250 billion yen on April 1 and cancel them.

Shinsei Bank reported a group net profit of 11.1 billion yen in the third quarter ended Dec. 31, up from a 12.8 billion yen loss in the same period a year earlier. Group revenue fell to 143.8 billion yen from 199.8 billion yen.

The bank, roughly 33%-owned by the U.S. investment fund J.C. Flowers & Co., has been strengthening its consumer finance operations since purchasing General Electric Co.'s Japanese consumer finance business in October 2008.

For the nine-month period, Shinsei posted a group net profit of 22.3 billion yen, compared with a net loss of 32.13 billion yen a year earlier.

It kept unchanged its earnings estimates for the full year through March 31 and continues to expect a group net profit of 10 billion yen on revenue of 620 billion yen.

In July, Shinsei Bank said it plans to merge with Aozora Bank Ltd. in October 2010. Aozora's leading shareholder is the U.S. private-equity fund Cerberus Group.

Write to Atsuko Fukase at atsuko.fukase@dowjones.com
8:26 AM

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