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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Daishi Bank (8324.T) and Hokuetsu Bank (8325.T) are considering integrating operations, the banks said on Thursday, in another move that would consolidate regional lenders amid a shrinking population, but had not yet decided anything.
The banks, based in Niigata prefecture on the north coast, seek to form a joint holding company by around next spring to bolster their operational bases, public broadcaster NHK had said earlier on Thursday, without citing its sources.
"It is true that we are considering merging operations but nothing has been decided," the banks said in separate statements.
Japan has roughly 100 regional banks, but the falling population and the central bank's negative interest-rate policy are putting the squeeze on many lenders, prompting a few to begin merging, besides taking steps to shore up operations.
The two banks combined under the holding company would control 51 percent of the lending in Niigata prefecture, according to an industry publication, the Financial Journal Co.
Fukuoka Financial Group Inc (8354.T), the largest banking group on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, plans to buy Eighteenth Bank Ltd (8396.T), and merge it with Shinwa Bank Ltd, which is already under Fukuoka's control.
The plan, announced a year ago, has been suspended for a review by the Fair Trade Commission, as the two banks would control more than 70 percent of the lending in Nagasaki prefecture, where they are based.
Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Clarence Fernandez