Japan's Aso asks banks to help as firms' funding needs rise at year-end

FILE PHOTO; Japan's newly-appointed Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Monday urged public and private financial institutions to help ensure smooth corporate financing as funding needs rise towards the year-end.

The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly boosted demand for funds in the services sector such as travel and food industries. The capital, Tokyo, has urged shorter working hours for bars and restaurants for the next few weeks to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus amid a surge in new cases.

“I would like (banks) to lend a sympathetic ear to businesses,” Aso said at a meeting with banking industry representatives, noting that some companies continued to struggle with financing.

Japanese banks’ outstanding loans stood at 533.3 trillion yen ($5.12 trillion) as of the end of October, up 6.2% compared with a year earlier, data from the Japanese Bankers Association show.

“We will support Japan’s economy from the financial side, coordinating closely with the government and Bank of Japan,” Kanetsugu Mike, the group’s chairman and president of MUFG Bank, told the same gathering.

Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Christopher Cushing