All Nippon Airways (ANA) aircraft are parked at Haneda airport on Friday. Photo: REUTERS
business

Japan prefers piecemeal approach to big bailout for carrier ANA

20 Comments
By Takaya Yamaguchi and Leika Kihara

Japan's government is in no mood for a huge bailout plan for ailing airline ANA, sources say, preferring a piecemeal approach to direct capital injections - a stark contrast to the bold moves other countries have made to protect flagship carriers.

Forecast to suffer a net loss of about 530 billion yen ($4.8 billion) in the fiscal year to March, Japan's largest airline is expected to announce a revival plan next week that will most likely include pay cuts and reduction in its fleet of aircraft.

The government hopes a waiver on airport landing fees, a tax-funded domestic tourism campaign and a gradual re-opening of borders will be enough to keep ANA alive, said government and ruling party officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

These measures will come on top of 400 billion yen in subordinated loans to ANA Holdings Inc from state-backed and private lenders.

The loans, cost cuts and capital accumulated during Japan's inbound tourism boom in the past few years will allow ANA to weather the hit from COVID-19 at least for now, they said.

Though nothing has been officially decided, the government is ready to offer more relief if a deepening economic slump worsens the plight of big companies with national impact such as ANA.

But ideas being floated among government and political circles center on tax breaks for aircraft and fuel, as well as extensions of existing programs such as the tourism campaign and subsidies to companies that retain jobs, the officials said.

More radical steps such as those taken by Germany, which did direct capital injection, are off the table for now, they said.

"As long as private banks are healthy enough (to support ANA), it's probably unnecessary," a senior ruling party official said of a direct bailout.

"Capital injection is a last resort," said another ruling party official with close ties with the airline industry. "I don't think the airlines themselves want this, because it would just show how dire their business health is."

The Bank of Japan, too, is wary of stepping in, concerned that rescuing non-financial entities like ANA would fall into the realm of fiscal policy, said three people familiar with its thinking.

"The BOJ and government each has different roles to play," one of the people said, ruling out measures such as directly offering subordinated loans to ANA.

There is uncertainty, however, on how long this drip-feed approach can last. Like other carriers, ANA has been burning through cash to maintain jets that are either grounded or flying with too few passengers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of ANA's international routes are suspended and a resurgence of infections in Western countries means a revival of inbound tourism may be some time off.

If there is a huge wave of infections in Japan, that could also dash hopes of a rebound in domestic tourism. Once pent-up demand from the government's campaign peters out, households may hold off on travelling as job losses and wage cuts hit income, analysts say.

Crunch time may come next year. Unless sales pick up, some companies may struggle to pay back loans, the officials said.

"Companies like ANA probably won't run into cash problems this year. But things could turn ugly if they cannot emerge from the red next year," said a government official.

That could force the government to take even more drastic steps.

"If conditions don't improve by around next spring, airlines will be in a much dire state," a third ruling party official said. "Nationalising ANA could become a real possibility."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
Login to comment

Just open the country to foreign tourists, make sure they're tested and negative before leaving their native country, test them when they arrive in Japan and once again when they leave. Make masks mandatory. The entire world is falling apart because of a virus that kills a very, very small portion of any country's population, and almost every one of those people are very old, comparatively speaking, or have other serious health problems. The 'social woke' media are hyping this to the extreme, and it's getting tiring. Politicians are kowtowing to needless fear. We can't all live forever.

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

It sinks, if a business goes bust so be it. Tax payers have more pressing problems than propping up a failed Buisness model.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

",,,that will most likely include pay cuts..."

Gotta love how the Einsteins at the BOJ and economists scratch their heads over Japanese people's "deflationary mindset." Here it's source, folks -- Japanese companies that cut wages instead of furloughs and layoffs as part of restructuring.

If this continues, 100 yen stores will be 80 yen stores. Hello, deflation!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

 make sure they're tested and negative before leaving their native country, test them when they arrive in Japan and once again when they leave.

Brilliant plan. Who would come?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Airlines (along with banks) are one of those businesses that need massive infusions of corporate welfare in a seemingly cyclical basis. Oil shock, 911 and war in the Middle east, financial crisis and now COVID. When are they going to get to experience the glorious possibilities of the free market and the wonderful opportunities of late stage capitalism?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I would personally prefer a full blown huge bailout or nationalisation.

Cost cuts and the sort will almost certainly affect safety and I for one won't fly ANA anymore.

There is no point surviving the plague just to die in an aeroplane crash.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

JAL received a lump sum bailout that saved them from 2.3 trillion yen debt almost 10 years ago. This debt was not based on something uncontrollable like the pandemic but basically poor management. JAL was the "national" airlines of Japan and received favoritism and basically placed ANA on an uneven playing field. And now ANA has to eat this? Why the double standards, someone big owns a lot of JAL stock?

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Interesting. JAL has a nice friendly relationship with LDP. Bailout.

I’m biased because I have had better service from ANA.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Given that governments are responsible for the economic mayhem that they have inflicted through lockdowns/excessive restrictions, they must be partly liable for bailing out companies like ANA. But of course doing so would just add to the infinite level of money printing that’s going on now to “create” the money to do so. 

Now that it’s increasingly clear that this virus is nowhere near as lethal as we’ve been misled to believe, it’s time to open up the economies to trade and travel and let companies like ANA and hundreds of thousands of others get back on their feet while protecting the relative small number of people who might actually get sick for SARS-CoV-2.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I will repeat again, I will sympathize with LCC and not companies like ANA

that over the years have made massive profits by over charging travellers, we often hear

of Apple having 194B USD cash at hand, where is ANA's cash at hand ?, I don't

believe all their profits was distributed to shareholders. Japan post is not accepting air packages

bound for more than a hundred countries and considering Japan is an export oriented economy

there is presently tremendous demand for air cargo, ANA can convert some of their planes to cargo

Korean Airlines made a 125M USD profit during this pandemic, ANA can also take advantage as well

instead of relying on bailouts.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Break it up or sell it to private invstors - do not throw any more tax money down the airline rathole. If they can't run themselves profitably, then let a company that can take them over.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"If this continues, 100 yen stores will be 80 yen stores. Hello, deflation!" Actually, prices are going to go up because almost everything they sell is imported...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

protecting the relative small number of people who might actually get sick for SARS-CoV-2.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. I wonder why nobody has thought of this before and we need kyronstavic to tell us. Wait, is it maybe because this virus can spread from people with no symptoms to those you are suggesting to protect?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

ZorotoToday  12:30 pm JST

protecting the relative small number of people who might actually get sick for SARS-CoV-2.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. I wonder why nobody has thought of this before and we need kyronstavic to tell us. Wait, is it maybe because this virus can spread from people with no symptoms to those you are suggesting to protect?

Did you miss the first part of the sentence? The reason why ANA and millions of businesses around the globe are in deep trouble? It's possible to do both without crippling economies around the world.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Maybe JAL and ANA can merge to save money. They could call the company JANAL.

trevorpeace:

Just open the country to foreign tourists, make sure they're tested and negative before leaving their native country,

And how easy or cheap would it be to get tested within 72 hours of departure? Japan is making it very very difficult even for permanent residents. You have to go to the embassy to get their own forms too. Make no mistake, this is done on purpose. I hope no tourists come and the Olympics get cancelled. It'll serve them right.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Maybe JAL and ANA can merge to save money.

I'd put ¥50,000 on this happening. The precedent is Air Canada gobbling up Canadian Airlines in 2000 when their government preferred the flag carrier. ANA won't be allowed to go broke, too much loss of face.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ultimately the Bank of Japan is responsible. So the chain of payment obligations could theoretically be frozen in time until such time the situation becomes normal again - of course that would mean no one gets paid in between now and then, and Companies go bust....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

ANA could offer discount priced flights that are paid for now but can be taken sometime within the next 2 or 3 years. That might get them some needed cash.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ana is not what people think. I almost never fly Ana.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ana is not what people think. I almost never fly Ana!

Personally, it's my favorite airline.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites