Court to protect Sanyo Securities

Sanyo Securities has become the first stockbroker in Japan's post- war history to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors. The ministry of finance has mounted a rescue operation, writes Andrew Verity.
Hiroshi Mituzuka, the Japanese Finance Minister, called for calm and order yesterday after Sanyo announced it had obtained court protection from its creditors. Senior management at the leading Japanese broker will resign following a board meeting yesterday which concluded a rescue was impossible without court protection. The company will today begin to return funds to customers.

Japan's Finance Ministry is spearheading a rescue operation and has announced that big creditors, including Nomura Securities, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Daiwa Bank and Nippon Credit Bank, will contribute to a pounds 9m fund to ensure depositors are repaid.

Mr Mituzuka said the decision "wasn't a result of the company's regular business operations". Instead, it stemmed from the bursting of Japan's economic bubble in the early 1990s and continual stock market falls.

Yasuo Matsushita, governor of the Bank of Japan, said: "We have been informed that customer property, including cash from customers, will be protected and that they will be returned swiftly."

The immediate trigger for Sanyo's decision was a refusal by nine top Japanese life insurers to give Sanyo more time to repay a string of subordinated loans. On Friday, Nippon Life Insurance and Dai-Ichi Mutual Life said the loans could not be extended. With only a year to go to repayment on 31 October 1998, the loans were no longer regarded as capital but as short- term debt. This pushed Sanyo's capital ratio below the minimum acceptable level of 120 per cent.

Sanyo Securities said it was faced not only with Japan's prolonged economic slump, but also sliding values for its shares and real estate holdings.

Tokyo District Court has granted an order protecting assets worth 297.6bn (pounds 1.48bn) at the end of September. Outstanding debts were worth 373.6bn (pounds 1.85bn).

While other stockbrokers have gone out of business in Japan, none has filed for protection from creditors. Others have simply been closed to new business or sold.