TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Wednesday he will encourage regional banks to push through reforms to survive headwinds such as a dwindling population.
“It’s becoming harder for regional banks to maintain the current business model given a dwindling population. I will encourage them to pursue reforms to make their business model more sustainable,” Aso told a news conference Wednesday evening after being reappointed as finance minister.
“Merging and decreasing (the number of regional banks) are among means that banks can consider. But they’re not the only options,” said Aso, who is also minister overseeing bank regulation.
Japan’s regional banks have seen their profits eroded by years of ultra-low interest rates and a dwindling local population. Some analysts warn they could be saddled with increasing credit costs as the coronavirus pandemic hit profits of many borrowers.
Yoshihide Suga became Japan’s first new prime minister in nearly eight years on Wednesday, pledging to contain COVID-19 and push reforms after retaining about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup in his cabinet.
(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, writing by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)