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2012年7月19日 (木)

日航再上場 公正な競争ゆがめない再建を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 19, 2012)
JAL reconstruction shouldn't distort fair competition
日航再上場 公正な競争ゆがめない再建を(7月18日付・読売社説)

Japan Airlines has filed with the Tokyo Stock Exchange to be relisted on the exchange, possibly in September.

If JAL is relisted, the airline will have shaken off the shackles of public management remarkably quickly--two years and eight months after it filed for bankruptcy protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law in January 2010.

The government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan injected 350 billion yen in public funds in JAL, which was delisted after it went bankrupt. If selling all the shares held by the corporation brings in more money than was spent propping up the airline, all public funds invested in JAL can be recovered.

For now at least, it seems JAL's rehabilitation has proceeded smoothly in that the financial burden shouldered by the public has been minimized as its management has been put back on track.

The biggest factor behind JAL's recovery was a sharp rebound in its business performance. JAL has chalked up record operating profits for two consecutive years, and its rate of profitability easily eclipsed that of other major airlines around the world.

We applaud JAL for the efforts it made to reform its corporate culture of "relying on the government to foot the bill" under the leadership of Chairman Kazuo Inamori, the founder of Kyocera Corp.


Generous assistance

However, it bears remembering that JAL could achieve brisk business results thanks to generous assistance measures such as the injection of public funds and debt waivers.

Large-scale restructuring, including the cutting of 16,000 jobs and axing of loss-making routes, was possible because it was done under court administration.

A matter of concern is that JAL, while operating with fewer financial burdens, has acquired an overwhelmingly dominant position over its rival All Nippon Airways. This threatens to distort the principle of fair competition.

JAL posted 204.9 billion yen in operating profit in the business term ended in March 2012, more than double the record 97 billion yen logged by ANA. After-tax profits for JAL, which was exempted from paying corporate tax as part of the preferential measures to revive the airline, were nearly seven times bigger than ANA's.

JAL's interest-bearing debts are just one-fifth of ANA's. JAL's exemption from paying corporate tax will continue for seven years.

If a company rebuilt with state assistance is treated preferentially over competitors fending for themselves, the end result will be unfairness.


Use profits for public good

At the very least, JAL--the operator of a public transportation network--needs to consider using its profits in ways that benefit the public, such as maintaining local routes and improving services.

A Liberal Democratic Party panel that believes JAL has been lavished with excessive public aid is calling for restrictions on JAL's planned opening of new routes and other operations, as a condition for approving JAL's relisting. We understand the LDP's demands in some respects, but political intervention must not be allowed.

There have been glaring shortcomings in policies aimed at realizing corporate reconstruction through public assistance while ensuring a fair, competitive environment for all comers. The European Union, by contrast, takes measures to restrict the business of a company that received public assistance.

Using these examples as references, the government must quickly consider what steps should be taken in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2012)
(2012年7月18日01時29分  読売新聞)


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