Efficiency among Japanese SMEs: In the context of the zombie firm hypothesis and firm size

Author Name GOTO Yasuo (Research Associate, RIETI) / Scott WILBUR (University of Southern California)
Creation Date/NO. December 2017 17-E-123
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The "soft budget problem," by which banks loosen their lending stances toward long-term client firms despite worsening business conditions, has been widely discussed in the field of financial studies. In Japan, this problem has attracted attention particularly in connection to so-called "zombie firms," financially weak firms sustained by discounted interest rates and evergreen lending which have become a major research and political interest in recent years. In this paper, we focus on zombie firms among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a corporate category that has hitherto received less consideration in the discussion about Japan's zombie firms. We find that: (1) many zombie firms exist among SMEs; (2) some zombie firms eventually emerge from zombie status; (3) once a firm becomes a zombie, its probability of exit increases especially among SMEs; and (4) the economic performance of exiting zombie firms is worse than those of exiting non-zombie firms.

Published: Goto, Yasuo, and Scott Wilbur, 2019. "Unfinished business: Zombie firms among SME in Japan’s lost decades," Japan and the World Economy, Vol. 49, pp. 105-112