Japan's regional bank consolidation 'inevitable' as BOJ's prolonged ultraeasy policy hurts profits: FSA
Japan Times -- Sep 11
Further consolidation among Japan's regional banks is inevitable given the rapidly aging population and ultralow interest rates, according to an adviser to the Financial Services Agency.

The Bank of Japan's radical stimulus program, which has pushed interest rates to near or below zero, is severely cutting into bank profits and could destabilize the sector in the not so distant future, said FSA adviser Naoki Ohgo.

"There are only a handful of regional banks successfully making money in niche areas," while many others are struggling to find new business models, Ohgo said in an interview Friday.

More regional banks should consolidate not only to cut costs, but also to restructure their businesses and boost profitability, he said.

"Consolidation is inevitable and a good thing," Ohgo said.

The remarks are one of the most blunt warnings among financial regulators of the dire prospects for Japan's crowded regional banking sector, underscoring the challenges smaller banks face in surviving a business environment made difficult by years of ultralow interest rates.

"There's not much time left" for regional banks to take steps to survive the graying of society and dwindling margins, said Ohgo, a private consultant who also advises several local governments.

Unless regional banks boost profitability, it "might not take long" for prolonged ultraeasy policy to destabilize the banking sector, he said.

Ohgo is a close associate of FSA Commissioner Nobuchika Mori, who has called for speedier banking-sector reform and is considered a candidate for BOJ governor.

News source: Japan Times
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