* Top three banks get 2.6 trln yen in loan requests after quake
* Total includes 1.4 trillion yen emergency loan for TEPCO
* Demand surge comes after months of sluggish lending activity (Updates with confirmation from banks)
By Taiga Uranaka
TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - Japanese companies’ demand for funding has soared since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, with the country’s top three banks seeing a surge in new loan requests, lenders said on Sunday.
Companies are rushing to secure extra financing to repair damage to their operations in the areas worst-hit by the disaster as well as fund their day-to-day operations following fall in revenue amid output disruptions, the banks said.
Japan’s top three banks, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ have received requests for new loans totalling 2.6 trillion yen ($32 billion) over two weeks, said the banks.
The total includes 1.4 trillion yen in emergency funds sought by Tokyo Electric Power Co the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo. Even excluding that number, requests were running at about four times the usual levels, the banks said.
The top three banks and major trust banks are in talks to provide up to 2 trillion yen in emergency loans to TEPCO, sources said last week.
Sumitomo Mitsui is the core unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group , Mizuho Corporate Bank is a unit of Mizuho Financial Group and BTMU is the core commercial banking unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group .
Commercial paper issues also jumped by more than 50 percent in the first week after the disaster, with new offers totalling about 1.1 trillion yen and rates for one- to two-month paper rising above 0.2 percent from 0.11 percent before March 11, the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday.
In the weeks following the disaster, the Bank of Japan has been pumping record amounts of funds into the banking system to ensure that credit keeps flowing to affected businesses and it has also increased its purchases of commercial paper.
Japanese banks had been suffering sluggish lending demand as households and businesses remained cautious on spending amid prolonged deflationary trend. Bank lending fell 1.8 percent in February, the 15th month of decline, the Bank of Japan data shows.
Awash with deposit money, the banks had been buying up Japanese government bonds to make up a fall in profit from lending.
“We have been approached by companies which had not needed our loans up until now. We are very likely to accept pretty much all of these loan requests since most of these companies are those we wanted to have business with,” said a source at one of the top banks, who declined to be named.
Including the emergency lending for TEPCO, BTMU said it has received request for about 700 billion yen in new loans, Mizuho said it has been asked to provide about 900 billion yen in total.
Officials of SMBC were not immediately available but a source said the bank had requests for about 1 trillion yen in new loans, including 600 billion for TEPCO.
While the banks said they did not have comparative numbers, the loan requests - even excluding that by TEPCO- marked a jump from regular years, at least four or five times larger in volume, though the increase was not as dramatic as in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
The total is equivalent to 3 percent of the overall outstanding loans to major corporations by these banks, said the Nikkei, which reported the surge in the lending request.
The total loan demand is likely to be bigger since the banks said their figures were from large corporate clients only and those from small and mid-sized businesses have not been counted.
Nikkei cited officials at companies considering extra funding, such as Renesas Electronics Corp , Taiheiyo Cement Corp. , whose plants have been damaged by the disaster and All Nippon Airways Co , bracing for a drop in demand for its passenger and cargo services. ($1 = 80.985 Japanese Yen) (Additional reporting by Tomasz Janowski)