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Japanese banks hit by fresh sub-prime woes

More sub-prime losses ahead for Japan’s banks, say analysts

(TOKYO) Japanese financial firms were hit by fresh sub-prime woes yesterday as several banks posted profit slumps and two securities firms delayed a planned merger due to recent market turmoil.

Japanese banks are also finding conditions increasingly tough at home as hopes of the central bank raising its rock-bottom interest rates fade amid growing uncertainty about the outlook for the global economy.

Mizuho Financial, Japan’s second-largest bank, reported a 16.6 per cent drop in first-half net profits to 327.06 billion yen (S$4.24 billion) as it booked losses of almost 70 billion yen related to the US subprime loan crisis.

Mizuho also slashed its full-year net profit forecast to 650 billion yen from 750 billion, although that would be 4.6 per cent higher than the previous year.

Many major banks have been burnt by rising defaults by American homebuyers on sub-prime mortgages that were often repackaged and sold on financial markets.

Japanese banks have been among those hit by the turmoil although they are believed to be less exposed than many of their foreign rivals. Analysts said there could be more sub-prime losses ahead for Japan’s banks.

‘There’s a bit more to come out of the woodwork yet I suspect,’ said Jason Rogers, a credit analyst at Barclays Capital.

‘If you have exposure it’s very hard to draw a line under the losses. But it is containable and manageable and they (the Japanese banks) are in a far better situation than many of their international peers,’ he added.

Shinsei Bank yesterday reported a 40.3 per cent drop in first-half net profits to 23.19 billion yen amid swelling losses from the sub-prime crisis, roughly in line with a reduced forecast released a day earlier.

Another Japanese mid-size player, Aozora Bank, said its net profit for the fiscal first half to September fell 20 per cent to 42.75 billion yen, hit by losses arising from its investments in mortgage backed securities.

‘Given the sharp declines in markets since mid-October, it may take some time before the sub-prime mortgage lending troubles settle down,’ chairman Kimikazu Noumi told reporters.

Japan’s biggest bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) last month warned it expects a 31.9 per cent drop in net profits to 600 billion yen this year due to weak income, losses on sub-prime loans and problems at its credit card subsidiary. The industry leader is expected to report its interim results next week.

Mizuho Securities and Shinko Securities meanwhile announced a four-month delay to their planned merger until May next year as financial market volatility complicates negotiations on the terms of the deal.

‘The financial market turmoil triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage problem is still showing no sign of resolving, and the situation remains uncertain,’ they said in a statement.


Source: AFP (Business Times 15 Nov 07)

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