This paper investigates whether there has been risk-sharing between banks and borrowing companies through the main bank relationship in Japan. The paper will discuss, if the main bank relationship is based upon a mechanism of risk-sharing, changes in the relationship ought to be systematically related to changes in the risk that borrowing companies face. And also, it will discuss the importance of the main bank relationship as a means of risk-sharing by comparing the correlation between financial expenses and the operating profits of specific companies with the degree of their dependence on main banks.
First, it is necessary to define what a Japanese “main bank” is. The “main bank” is defined as the “financial group” (“kinyu keiretsu” in japanese) in the paper. “Financial group” is defined in principle by the amount of financing that a bank supplies to a particular borrowing company. When a given company has taken out the largest amount of loans from a particular bank for the past three or more years consecutively, the company is viewed as belonging to that bank’s “financial group.” Nearly all the companies listed in the first section of Tokyo Stock Exchange have a main bank. However, these companies borrow not just from their main bank, but from a large number of other banks and financial institution as well. While the main bank is an important lender, the company must also rely on loans from the main bank’s competitors which in sum far exceed those from the main bank itself.
Although the generally accepted notion among researchers in that the main bank relationship in Japan is extremely stable, this evidence suggests that the Japanese main bank is one of much more fluidity than has been generally believed. Now, the paper presents some factors that might account for the actual changing patterns of main bank affiliations. These factors are (a) the uncertainty of companies’ operating performance, assuming the main bank relationship serves an important function of risk-sharing between companies and banks, it can be derived that an increase in the uncertainty of the business environment for a specific industry should decrease the proportion of companies that change their main bank, thus, changes in main bank affiliation will be systematically related to changes in the uncertainty of the performance of corporate borrowers; (b) the history of the main bank relationship, as the accumulated value of the main bank relationship is assumed to be positively correlated with the duration of the relationship, the longer a company has continued to maintain a main bank relationship with a specific bank, ceteris paribus, the less likely the company is to break that relationship off; this proposition concerning the changeableness of the main bank relationship is also a testable one; (c) the growth of the borrowing companies, it can be regarded as related to main bank changes in 2 ways: first, the growth of a company raise its reputation and credibility in financial market so that the lenders don’t need to spend much information cost to confirm its credit, if the main bank relationship means economizing on information costs, we can expect those companies have achieved relatively rapid growth to show more tendencies to leave main bank relationships that those that have been stagnant; second, rapidly growing companies will tend to switch their main bank relationships to large banks as it’s easy to accommodate their customer’s expanding demands for diversified financial services. and (d) the “leading bank” factor, since the leading banks have capability of supplying a larger variety of services, including financial services overseas, they tend to increase their shares in main bank relationships.
There is a type of contingency claim between banks and the borrowing companies which are in their financial groups. Namely, the lending rate remains relatively low when the market rate rises, and the rate stays relatively high when the market rate fails. Through this sort of contract, the borrowers are able to some extent to avoid the risk of movements in the market interest rate. There is another study supports the hypothesis that in the Japanese bank loan market, banks and firms share risks through loan contract arrangement. They even say that some part of the loan interest rate rigidity in Japan can be explained by the implicit contracts between banks and borrowing companies.
However, the stabilization of interest expenses does not necessarily imply the stabilization of the borrowing companies’ operating performance. This becomes clearer if we consider the next set of accounting equations for the Japanese company: (operating profits)+(non-operating revenues)-(non-operating expenses)=(ordinary profits); (ordinary profits)+(extraordinary profit and loss + special retained funds)-(corporation taxes)= profits for the period.
In Japan, more than 80%of non-operating expenses is occupied by financial expenses, and almost all of these financial expenses are composed of interest payments and discounting fees. And so, if the corporate objective were really to maintain the stability of ordinary or net profits, then financial expenses such as interest payments should move in a manner which to some extent offsets movements in operating profits. Only in this manner, rather than through the stabilization of interest payments, would changes in operating profits be less likely to destabilize net profits. In fact, it is possible to imagine cases in which the stabilization of interest expenses, far from stabilizing net profits, actually increase their volatility.
In this sense, if the main bank relationship actually serves to diversify risk, we should observe financial expenses of client companies being adjusted to offet shifts in their operating profits. In the periods when the operating profits of companies are relatively low, we should observe manifestation of an implicit contract that lowers their financial expenses, so that a large-scale drop in the net profits that the company can claim is averted. The effective borrowing rate of interest for the company is not the contracted face value rate of interest, but the “effective” rate of interest that takes into account the interest rate of the compensatory balances. If financial expenses are adjusted according to the above-hypothesized implicit contract mechanism, the interest revenues the borrowing company gains from its deposits must also be part of this mechanism.
But, these interest revenues are included in the category of non-operating revenues. Among such non-operating revenues are included the capital gains realized from the sales of securities owed by the borrowing company. Companies whose operating profits have drastically fallen often sell the securities they own as a method of restraining the fall of business profits; this device itself have no direct connection with whether risk-sharing exists through the main bank mechanism.
The point of the paper was to investigate whether or not the main bank relationship in Japan actually performs a risk-sharing function. It investigated this issue from two angles. The first was to examine the relationship between changes in main bank affiliations and changes in the uncertainty that borrowing companies were confronted with. The second was to examine whether the main bank relationship actually contributed to offsetting movements in the operating performance of individual companies. Both of these examinations suggest negative conclusion; in general, no systematic relationships can be observed which would indicate the existence of risk-sharing between main banks and their major customers.