Nova to close 50 branches

Nova Corp., the nation’s largest English-conversation school operator, plans to close about 50 branches at the end of this month, sources said Thursday.

The English-language school chain is to consolidate neighboring branches mainly in the Tokyo area, but also in areas including Osaka and Kobe, where a number of branches are located near each other.

The company already has begun notifying students who are subject to changes of classroom location, the sources said.

The business environment for Nova has become increasingly difficult recently, partly due to a decline in the number of students following a series of lawsuits filed by former students concerning repayment of class fees. In the wake of the scandals, the company also was hit by an order from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry to partially suspend operations of the school.

The planned consolidation of school branches is aimed at streamlining the business and reducing operational costs including rent.

Nova has already closed 12 school branches since March. The number of school branches stood at 913 as of the end of last month. Besides the 50 branches slated for closure at the end of this month, the company also is considering further closures, mainly among branches where office rental contracts are shortly due to expire.

Regarding the prospect of further closures, the company issued a statement saying, “At this moment, nothing has been formally decided.”