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2012年9月22日 (土)

日航再上場 課題も残したスピード再建

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2012)
JAL's swift turnaround doesn't end aviation industry problems
日航再上場 課題も残したスピード再建(9月21日付・読売社説)

Japan Airlines has returned to the Tokyo Stock Exchange two years and seven months after delisting.

The relisting of JAL after such a short period is unparalleled by any turnaround in the past, but this is just the beginning of the former national flag carrier's true reconstruction.

JAL filed for bankruptcy under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law in January 2010, and its shares were delisted the following month.

The firm's shares on Wednesday, the first day of trading since the delisting, closed at 3,830 yen, more than they were priced at for their initial public offering. It has been smooth sailing for JAL stock transactions so far.

The recovery of the carrier's business performance has been stunning, and far swifter than expected. JAL has been reborn as one of the world's most profitable aviation companies. Investors appear to highly rate its current corporate value.

The government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan, which held almost all JAL shares, has sold off all of its share holdings, garnering 650 billion yen in proceeds. This means ETIC has successfully recouped the entire 350 billion yen of taxpayer money injected for JAL's resuscitation and also has made a sizable profit on the sale of JAL shares.


Profits due to assistance

We are pleased that JAL did not plunge into a second failure, and that a further financial burden on taxpayers was averted.

A key factor behind JAL's resuscitation in a short period is its success in improving the high-cost management system that was a major pending problem after the carrier's bankruptcy filing.

By pushing ahead with drastic business restructuring programs, such as slashing personnel and withdrawing from unprofitable air routes, JAL posted operating profits of 204.9 billion yen in the business year that ended in March 2012, topping the firm's previous high.

The effect of coercive business improvement steps for JAL through the bankruptcy protection under law was substantial.

In the rehabilitation process, JAL received assistance from both the private and public sectors, including provision of taxpayers' money, tax breaks and debt waivers from creditor banks. JAL should never forget that its colossal profits have been realized thanks to these helping hands.

From now on, JAL must consolidate its management capability for flying solo. Its ability to hammer out a business strategy will be tested amid increasingly severe competition in the aviation industry, including the emergence of new low-cost carriers in Japan.

JAL now aims to grow by expanding its international transportation capacity by 25 percent, boosting routes in Asia and elsewhere.

It may be right for the carrier to shift the focus of its strategy from business restructuring efforts to going on the offensive.

However, if JAL expands routes and purchases new aircraft recklessly, it could repeat the bankruptcy-causing mistakes of the past.


Gaps in terms of competition

Of key significance to the carrier's future growth is its ability to beef up managerial capability and prevent itself from slipping into complacency about its current high profitability.

The reconstruction of JAL presents a question concerning how the government should extend assistance to failed firms.

This is because a gap in business performance has opened up between JAL, which has been revived through generous government assistance, and its longtime rival All Nippon Airways Co. which has continued flying under its own power.

JAL's after-tax profits for last fiscal year, which ended in March 2012, were six times higher than ANA's, and JAL's profits for the current fiscal year are expected to be more than three times higher than ANA's.

In addition, corporate tax breaks for JAL are expected to remain in place for some time.

It is significant that Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kazuhiko Takeshima has told a Diet committee the favorable treatment of JAL "has undoubtedly had a major impact on competition conditions" in the aviation industry.

The government should study ways of securing fair competition among airlines through such means as reasonable allocation of flight slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2012)
(2012年9月21日01時40分  読売新聞)


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