August 24, 2018 / 6:42 AM / in 3 months

Japan's FTC approves Fukuoka, Eighteenth Bank merger after long review

TOKYO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said on Friday it had approved the merger of two small lenders after a lengthy review that had sparked a battle between the antitrust watchdog and financial regulators promoting mergers in the embattled industry.

Fukuoka Financial Group Inc had announced in 2016 its plans to buy Eighteenth Bank Ltd and combine it with another unit, but the FTC blocked the deal over concerns they would control about 70 percent of the lending market in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki.

Advisers to the Financial Services Agency - which is urging consolidation among regional banks - challenged the FTC’s view and argued that exemptions from antitrust law should be made to help the industry survive a declining population and deteriorating earnings. (Reporting by Junko Fujita and Takahiko Wada; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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