Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 09/17/08
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RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1358
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 09 TOKYO 002555
DEPT FOR E, P, EB, EAP/J, EAP/P, EAP/PD, PA;
WHITE HOUSE/NSC/NEC; JUSTICE FOR STU CHEMTOB IN ANTI-TRUST DIVISION;
TREASURY/OASIA/IMI/JAPAN; DEPT PASS USTR/PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE;
SECDEF FOR JCS-J-5/JAPAN,
DASD/ISA/EAPR/JAPAN; DEPT PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USDA
FAS/ITP FOR SCHROETER; PACOM HONOLULU FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ADVISOR;
CINCPAC FLT/PA/ COMNAVFORJAPAN/PA.
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA
SUBJECT: DAILY SUMMARY OF JAPANESE PRESS 09/17/08
(1) Japan fears spillover effect of Lehman's failure (Asahi)
(2) FSA officials mulled over response to Lehman failure by giving
up their holiday (Nikkei)
(3) Editorial: Decisive measures urged to prevent financial crisis
that originated in U.S. from spreading (Nikkei)
(4) DPJ makes first move for political realignment (Asahi)
(1) Japan fears spillover effect of Lehman's failure
ASAHI (Page 3) (Slightly abridged)
September 17, 2008
The collapse of Lehman Brothers, a major U.S. securities house, may
have adverse spillover effects not only on the monetary market but
even on many other areas in Japan. Economic woes in the U.S. will
push the Japanese economy into a more serious recessionary phase. A
political vacuum could make it impossible for Japan to quickly come
up economic stimulus measures. The ruling coalition expects to hold
a general election under the effect of the party being buoyed up in
the aftermath of the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential
election, but this strategy might also be undermined by Lehman's
Leading banks calculate losses; some companies worry about
After learning the news of Lehman Brothers' failure on Sept. 15, a
Japanese leading financial institution operating in New York
promptly began collecting information on its transactions with
Lehman. After examining the contents of its deals with Lehman, the
institution informed its business partner of the amount that it
should bear, but the no reply has come yet.
On the 16th, major banks were pressed to report their losses in
dealings with Lehman. The total amount of these banks' loan claims
on Lehman is approximately 210 billion yen, some of which are
expected to become unrecoverable.
Mizuho Trust & Banking announced that about 11.8 billion yen worth
of debt claims have turned into bad loans. The Mizuho Financial
Group expects to suffer a loss of about 20 billion yen. The Sumitomo
Mitsui Financial Group will also post a loss of about 10 billion
yen, a portion that is not covered with collaterals.
The spillover effects of the Lehman failure will also spread to
local financial institututions. According to Daiwa Securities SMBC
Co., Lehman issued yen-denominated Samurai bonds worth 195 billion
yen, many of which were purchased by local banks. In case of default
on these bonds, its scale will be as large as the one on samurai
bonds issued by the Argentine government in 2001.
More than 20 banks announced the state of their holdings of bonds
issued by Lehman, such as 7.1 billion yen worth of bonds held by the
Kiyo Holdings Inc. and 3.9 billion yen by the Fukuoka Financial
Group. If redeeming the bonds becomes difficult, "the banks will
TOKYO 00002555 002 OF 009
find it difficult to make up for the losses incurred just before
Sept. 30 midyear settlement of accounts," said Toshiyasu Ohashi, a
chief analysis on credits at Daiwa Securities SMBC. A local bank
employee commented: "It was inconceivable for this big leading
financial institution to file for bankruptcy protection."
Concerns are also growing among companies that have procured funds
from Lehman. The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa, which was used as
the hall of the Hokkaido Toyako Summit this summer, planned to open
a condominium-type super-deluxe hotel in 2011, with about 20 billion
yen to be invested by SECOM General Insurance Co., Lehman, and other
companies. But the plan is now "stuck for funds," as a management
company executive said.
Anrakutei Co., a barbeque restaurant chain, has borrowed about 1.7
billion yen from Lehman with share warrants as a mortgage. It plans
to renew the debt on the 29th. The company issued this comment last
night, in an effort to dispel public concerns: "We concluded a
contract on the 12th."
Lehman Brothers Japan, based in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, does business
intended mainly for corporations. The company provided moving strike
convertible bonds (MSCB) to Livedoor Co. for its acquisition of
Nippon Broadcasting System Inc. in 2005.
The MSCB product tends to bring down stock prices and have a major
impact on other shareholders, so some see MSCB as a problem item. A
foreign securities company employee said: "Lehman Brothers Japan
might have been trying to survive by handling services that cannot
be handled by other leading companies, for instance, such unique
financial products as MSCB and investment in real estate."
Lehman also dealt with a variety of derivatives. There are many
companies that have purchased derivatives with the aim of preventing
such risks as an interest rate change and default. Given this, more
companies might be pressed to unexpectedly report losses from now.
Ruling camp eagerly trying to avoid negative effect
Economic ministers and Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa
urgently met yesterday morning after a cabinet meeting to discuss
how to respond to the failure of Lehman Brothers. Prime Minister
Fukuda, in an effort to dismiss public anxieties, emphasized to
reporters last evening: "The impact (of Lehman's failure) will be
rather small. We will have to take action in a calm manner."
The ruling coalition has been eagerly trying to dismiss any
anxieties about a political vacuum.
Secretary General Taro Aso stressed in a meeting at party
headquarters yesterday: "If we depend only on market mechanisms,
there will surely be negative effects. We are not allowed to leave
the situation intact. First, we must take measures to pump up the
economy and then make efforts to reconstruct the nation's
State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yosano, a candidate
for the LDP presidential election, also emphasized: "If we think it
is improper to continue canvassing tours, we should decide to cancel
them." Policy Research Council Chairman Kosuke Hori called in
policymaking officials from all LDP factions yesterday and said:
"Each presidential candidate does not fully understand the problem.
TOKYO 00002555 003 OF 009
I would like the candidates to reflect their views on this issue in
their campaign speeches."
The presidential candidates and party executives are concerned about
the impact of the Lehman failure on the ruling camp's strategy
eyeing the dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap
The ruling coalition prepare this strategy: Draw public attention to
the LDP presidential race, submit a supplementary budget bill that
includes expenses to fund economic pump-priming measures, and
dissolve the Lower House when support for the new prime minister is
But if the ruling side focuses only on this election strategy
without making efforts to stabilize the financial market, the ruling
camp will be certainly criticized as paying attention not to public
interests but to party interests. Meanwhile, if Lower House
dissolution is delayed to sometime after the supplementary budget
bill clears the Diet, the ruling camp may be exposed to attacks from
the opposition camp in the upcoming Diet session.
The Democratic Party of Japan has begun to grill the government over
this issue. Azuma Koshiishi, chairman of the DPJ caucus in the House
of Councillors, said: "Under this situation, is it acceptable that
the LDP is devoting itself to the party presidential election
campaign, which is just like a festival show?"
The collapse of Lehman is also likely to affect policy debate. The
government and the ruling camp have decided to compile an extra
budget worth 1.8 trillion yen, but Prime Minister has insisted on
maintaining the fiscal reconstruction policy without issuing
deficit-covering bonds. This policy has been taken since the Koizumi
administration. But calls are likely to grow louder in the ruling
camp for measures to buoy up the economy while pushing the fiscal
reconstruction policy backward.
In the presidential election campaign, Aso has said that he would
not hesitate to aggressive disburse government funds, saying: "I
will give priority to boosting the economy." DPJ President Ozawa
also expressed a willingness to make the people feel at ease with
fiscal disbursements. A senior Finance Ministry official said: "The
ruling and opposition camps might compete over economic stimulus
But pork-barrel-type economic measures might lead to cooling down
the economy as more deficit-covering bonds are issued and as
interest rates eventually rise. Now that a slowdown of exports is
concerned due to economic deterioration in the U.S. and Europe, a
market player is overheard saying: "Tax cuts and fiscal
disbursements are expected to have just limited effects."
(2) FSA officials mulled over response to Lehman failure by giving
up their holiday
NIKKEI (Page 4) (Abridged slightly)
September 17, 2008
Talks to bail out Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. involving U.S.
authorities ended in failure on the morning of Sept. 15, Japan time,
and the Financial Services Agency (FSA) sensed that the prestigious
investment bank would collapse. This forced principal FSA officials,
TOKYO 00002555 004 OF 009
including Supervisory Bureau Director General Katsunori Mikuniya, to
busy themselves searching for countermeasures by giving up their
holiday. Securities Business Division Director Muneo Morita, for
instance, swiftly decided to cancel his attendance at an
international conference of securities business supervisory
The agency's main concern was how to prevent the assets held by
customers of Lehman Brothers Japan Inc. from flowing out of the
country after the firm collapsed.
FSA officials closely checked similar past cases supervised by
overseas authorities, such as Britain's Financial Services
The agency took steps in rapid succession after it learned the news
shortly after noon of Sept. 15 that Lehman had filed for Chapter 11
protection. The agency issued an order at 15:00 Sept. 15 instructing
Lehman Brothers Japan Inc. to retain certain assets within Japan and
another order at 21:00 ordering it to halt operations for 12 days.
The agency had been informed by the Japan unit of the U.S.
securities house it would file for bankruptcy protection under the
Civil Rehabilitation Law as early as Sept. 16. The FSA still took
every possible means to protect assets held by Lehman Brothers'
customers partly in the form of administrative penalty. "We used all
ammunition at our disposal," an FSA official said late at night,
Planning and financial department executives of Mizuho Corp., which
has invested 130 billion yen in Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., also
assembled at their Tokyo head office around noon Sept. 15. One of
the members said: "Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch is
likely to benefit our company." Officials of other major banks also
analyzed the situation on Sept. 15, a Japanese holiday. Financial
officers of still other banks worked through the night projecting
their losses and calculating loans to Lehman Brothers.
"We never expected that Lehman Brothers would go belly up so fast,"
an investment department official of Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Co.
said in dismay. Asahi Mutual Life purchased Lehman bonds worth 10
billion yen in 2004. The amount is the largest among life insurance
companies in Japan. The company began looking for the timing to sell
Lehman bonds in August, but it could not do so due to tumbling bond
In the wake of Lehman's bankruptcy, the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE)
and Japan Securities Clearing Corp. (JSCC) made preparations
throughout the night. Lehman Japan, which became the top securities
firm in trading in fiscal 2007, had a strong presence in the
Japanese markets. There were conflicting reports and the company's
future was unclear.
At 7:30 Sept. 16, shortly before Lehman Japan's filing for
bankruptcy protection became public, the TSE ordered the company to
halt securities and derivatives trading activities. The JSCC, too,
was confident to settle outstanding trading activities within the
deposits from Lehman. A senior TSE official still underlined the
need to end the closed trade by minimizing Lehman's impact on the
At 8:30, the Bank of Japan released Governor Masaaki Shirakawa's
statement reading: "The bank will endeavor to ensure smooth fund
TOKYO 00002555 005 OF 009
settlements and the stability of financial markets while keeping a
close eye on the environment surrounding U.S. financial institutions
and its impact."
The exchange market reacted to Shirakawa's three-line statement to a
certain extent, with a foreign bank dealer saying, "Knowing that the
BOJ is watching the markets, I momentarily hesitated to take a
At 9:06, the Bank of Japan injected 1.5 trillion yen into money
markets. A call loan dealer predicted: "Many regional banks are
cautious about operating funds in short-run markets today. The Bank
of Japan would have to provide more funds. There may be an
additional injection of money,"
The Bank of Japan added another 1 trillion yen to money markets at
12:50 and policy interest rates that had been relatively high
finally settled near the target of 0.5 PERCENT .
Lehman Brothers Japan president offered apology at night
Following the collapse of its parent firm in the United States,
Lehman Brothers Japan Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection under the
Civil Rehabilitation Law on the morning of Sept. 16. Holding
liabilities totaling 3.4314 billion yen, Lehman Japan became the
second-largest postwar corporate failure following the 4.52 trillion
yen left by Kyoei Life Insurance Co. (currently Gibraltar Life
Insurance), which failed in 2000.
President Akio Katsuragi held a press conference in Tokyo on the
night of Sept. 16 in which he offered an apology, saying: "Unable to
catch up with the rapid changes in the markets, we have caused
tremendous trouble to our customers and the markets."
What will become of Lehman Japan? President Katsuragi revealed a
plan to search for sponsors while holding talks with the parent
company, saying: "We want to speedily produce a revival plan and
start looking for sponsors."
The company had 1,300 employees, including many experts in stock,
bond, real estate, and investment bank. It was also scheduled to
hire slightly less than 20 new employees nest spring. Katsuragi
indicated that the company would consider the handling of the new
employees in the days ahead.
The Lehman issue would have a significant impact not only on the
financial and capital markets but also on the job market. Fallouts
of the "Lehman shock" are likely to spread to a wide range of
(3) Editorial: Decisive measures urged to prevent financial crisis
that originated in U.S. from spreading
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
September 17, 2008
A situation that might only occur once in 50 or 100 years is about
to occur in the U.S. as former Federal Reserve Board Chairman
Greenspan put it. Of the four major securities firms in the U.S, one
of which has collapsed and another has been bought out. The largest
insurance company also is in trouble. All of these events occurred
while Japan was enjoying a three-day holiday weekend.
TOKYO 00002555 006 OF 009
If the financial crisis in the U.S. continues without control, the
global economy could be affected immeasurably. US monetary
authorities should look into decisive measures, including the
drastic use of public money, instead of resorting to stopgap
measures each time a problem occurs.
Prevent expansion for bailout measures from spreading
Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest securities house in the U.S.,
whose management had been in bad shape, has filed for bankruptcy
because the U.S. government refused to bail it out. The government
in effect took bail-out measures when a management crisis involving
Bear Sterns and two mortgage financing companies surfaced this year.
The U.S. government has decided not to bail out Lehman Brothers out
of concern that if it bails out that company, leading companies
would think that the government would always bail out failed
financial firms, if their size were big enough, bringing about a
lack of management discipline among them.
Compared with the situation in March, when Bear Sterns ran into
financial difficulty, concern about banks facing bankruptcy all of a
sudden due to cash-flow problems has weakened. This is because the
FRB has set up a system of directly injecting funds into battered
securities companies. This time, the U.S. government has decided to
strengthen this system and allow the company to deposit high-risk
negotiable securities, such as stocks, as security.
The government has tolerated the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers,
after taking those measures. However, some creditors or business
partners of the company could suffer a major blow. Merrill Lynch,
the third largest company in the industry, has been integrated into
the Bank of America, a major U.S. bank, as a kind of bailout
measure. Chances are that other securities houses or banks are
facing management instability.
The major focus for the time being is on how the American
International Group (AIG), which is already in financial trouble,
can procure funds. If AIG, which has many customers not only in the
U.S. but also all over the world, collapses, the impact would be
immense. The financial crisis the U.S. is now facing reminds us of
the dismal state of the financial industry in Japan around November
1997, when Sanyo Securities and Hokkaido Takushoku Bank failed and
Yamaichi Securities voluntarily went out of business.
At the time, various foreign countries, starting with the U.S.,
criticized Japan, noting that a Japan-induced global financial
crisis would occur. In the end, it took five to six years for Japan
to settle its non-performing loan issue. If the U.S. financial
crisis becomes drawn out, its impact would be far greater than the
impact of Japan's financial crisis at the time. U.S. monetary
officials should make an all-out effort to settle the crisis so that
a global financial crisis originating in the U.S. will not occur.
The root-cause of the problem is to be found in the fact that U.S.
monetary officials remained reluctant to take proactive measures
until the crisis approached.
The U.S. Treasury Department has urged embattled banks and
securities firms to make a voluntary effort. However, it has
neglected to make a quick response to the failure of Lehman
Brothers. As a result, the company was unable to procure funds on
TOKYO 00002555 007 OF 009
its own. There is a possibility of similar cases continuing.
The government refusal to bail out Lehman Brothers may help stop
prevent banks from relying on the government. However, it appears
that leaving the matter like this to the private sector has just
about reached its limit. The U.S. government should take the lead in
creating a bailout mechanism, including the establishment of an
organ tasked with non-performing loans, instead of putting off the
settlement of the issue.
It is not someone else's misfortune
Japan cannot afford to rest assured, regarding the Lehman Brothers'
collapse as someone else's misfortune.
Lehman Brothers' major creditors include many Japanese banks. Many
banks are also the firm's business partners regarding its
derivatives. Monetary officials should take extreme care so that the
collapse of the company will not cause turmoil to Japan's money
A financially-strapped AIG has actively sold insurance products,
such as cancer insurance products, through its Japanese subsidiary.
It is now trying to procure funds from private-sector banks in an
effort to reconstruct its management. It should work together with
U.S. monetary authorities and consider seeking indirect assistance,
What is more worrisome than the problems individual financial
institutions are facing is the adverse effect of the U.S.-induced
financial crisis on the global economy. The housing industry is in a
slump in the U.S. Industrial output and the employment situation are
also deteriorating. There is a strong likelihood that U.S.-bound
exports will suffer a further blow.
The financial crisis originating in the U.S. has repercussions for
the financial and real estate industries in Japan. There is fear
that its adverse effect would widely affect export-oriented
Unlike the U.S., the Japanese economy itself is not beset with
issues that require adjustment over the short term. However, it is
necessary to carefully monitor what effect the U.S.-induced
financial crisis will have on the Japanese economy.
(4) DPJ makes first move for political realignment
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
September 17, 2008
As if waiting for a respite from the recent flurry of festivity in
the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Ichiro Ozawa, president
of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has now
again moved into action. Ozawa is now pushing ahead with a merger
between his party and the People's New Party (PNP), while
brandishing the threat of switching to another electoral district,
from which he will run. He plans to field high-profile candidates
for the next House of Representatives election.
Ozawa takes initiative in DPJ-PNP merger
DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama yesterday expressed the high
TOKYO 00002555 008 OF 009
expectations of a merger between the DPJ and PNP, saying to
reporters: "It's good to be big in order to give more momentum to
Hatoyama has a memory of the merger of his party and the now-defunct
Ozawa-led Liberal Party, which allowed the new party to leap ahead
in the 2003 Lower House election. Since the PNP is strongly
supported by voters engaged in the postal services, the DPJ-PNP
merger would generate a significant effect. As it stands, there is a
possibility of the DPJ becoming the largest party in the Lower House
Ozawa is the person who suggested the merger plan. He told a press
meeting on Sept. 15: "A merger is one option." Ozawa and his PNP
counterpart Tamisuke Watanuki yesterday held a signing ceremony of
an agreement on policy platforms for their parties. Although Ozawa
did not sound Watanuki out about the merger plan, he reportedly
whispered to Watanuki while shaking hands: "Let's work together,
There is a sense of alarm among PNP members. A senior member said:
"It is necessary for us to make our position clear. Unless we win
the next election, it will be too late to fundamentally review
postal privatization." Some PNP members are, however, strongly
opposed to the merger plan. After his meeting with Ozawa, Watanuki
placed on hold his decision, just saying: "Once I formally receive
the proposal, I will respond after hearing views of my fellow
members." DPJ and PNP lawmakers favoring the merger plan aim to
demonstrate the unity of opposition parties, reaching an agreement
on Sept. 22, when LDP Secretary General Aso Taro will be elected as
the new LDP president.
The DPJ expects not only to increase its Lower House seats but also
to win over independent lawmakers, who have close ties with the
New Party Daichi leader Muneo Suzuki praised Ozawa at a meeting in
Sapporo on Sept. 11, saying: "Hearing Mr. Ozawa's enthusiastic
speech, I felt that I was drawn toward the DPJ." The DPJ has called
on Takeo Hiranuma, an independent lawmaker, who has looked for a
possibility of forming a new party, for election cooperation.
The DPJ appears to be getting the edge over other parties, by taking
the initiative in possible "political realignment," which will
likely to move into full swing.
Psychological strategy of sending "assassin" candidates
The DPJ plans to send "assassin candidates" to electoral districts
for which the ruling parties are expected to file powerful
Ozawa met yesterday with Watanuki in the Diet building. After that,
he moved to DPJ headquarters later in the day. He then held a joint
press conference with New Party Nippon leader Yasuo Tanaka. Tanaka
said meaningfully: "The dream I have is to confound conventional
wisdom. There will be surprises, including to myself. The election
will be my last political battle."
There has been a rumor that Upper House member Tanaka, who has a
ep-seated belief in Ozawa, may run in the next Lower House election.
All the more because Tanaka said that there would be "surprises,"
TOKYO 00002555 009 OF 009
some political observers have taken his remark as his indication of
running in the general election.
Eriko Fukuda, hepatitis C infected Kyushu plaintiff, has firmed up
her intention to run as a DPJ candidate from the Nagasaki No. 2
district, which is former Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma's home
constituency. Yesterday Ozawa asked local TV announcer Takako Nagae,
who is well-known in Ehime Prefecture, to run from the Ehime No. 1
district as a DPJ candidate against former Chief Cabinet Secretary
The DPJ announced on Sept. 12 a list of 187 candidates as its first
picks for the 300 single-seat constituencies. The largest opposition
party, however, has yet to file candidates for the districts from
which five LDP presidential candidates will run and the Tokyo No. 12
district, which is New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota's home
constituency. The question is for which constituencies the DPJ will
send high-profile "assassin candidates," including Ozawa. The
psychological warfare will continue between the DPJ and the ruling