* Key creditor offers “as much support as possible”
* Toshiba needs funds to cover U.S. losses
TOKYO, April 21 (Reuters) - Toshiba Corp creditor Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank (SMTB) said it fully supports the troubled electronics conglomerate as it battles to survive by shedding a pair of core businesses.
“Toshiba is at a crucial stage now and it is making very big efforts. As a member of its main creditor group, we will provide as much support as possible,” Masaru Hashimoto, who became president of SMTB this month, said in an interview.
His bank is working with bigger rivals Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (SMBC) and Mizuho Bank to mollify minor lenders which are increasingly jittery about Toshiba’s prospects.
Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse Electric Co, last month filed for bankruptcy as the Japanese company tried to stem mounting losses from U.S. projects. Toshiba has also put its prized chip business up for auction to raise around 2 trillion yen ($18.34 billion) to replenish its capital.
Toshiba has told creditors it would need about 1 trillion yen in fresh funds for the year started April.
“We would like to sincerely consider when Toshiba makes specific requests for support,” Hashimoto said.
Hashimoto and Tetsuo Ohkubo, who became president of parent Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings at the same time, are taking over the leadership role as Japan’s financial industry is under growing regulatory pressure to overhaul practices.
The government is frustrated that households have yet to shift significant sums of money out of savings accounts and into capital markets despite incentives introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stimulate economic growth.
Regulators are urging financial institutions to show they are fulfilling fiduciary duty as honest agents for clients, demanding greater transparency in fee structures of investment products and better performance of money managers.
“It’s important to conduct customer-oriented business. But in reality, it’s not necessarily happening and it’s hard to say stable asset creation by the public has been realised,” Nobuchika Mori, commissioner of the Financial Services Agency, told an industry gathering earlier this month.
For trust banks such as SMTB, there have been concerns they are not fully acting in the best interest of clients including pension funds and mutual fund investors, out of consideration for banking business relationships with companies whose stocks are performing poorly.
“Preventing potential conflicts of interest is the very core of the trust banking business and we have been doing that for years,” Ohkubo said.
“But given various opinions on the matter of fiduciary duty, we are currently working to make our efforts more visible to clients and regulatory authorities.” ($1 = 109.0400 yen) (Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Stephen Coates)