How to profit from Japan’s ‘revolution’

An economic overhaul is underway in Japan aimed to place investors’ interests very first. Can you benefit?


Could a new stock market index help revitalise an total economy, one that has been mired in stagnation for decades?

It may possibly sound far-fetched but some specialist investors consider Japan’s new Nikkei 400 index, which excludes firms that refuse to put shareholders initial, could be key to changing corporate culture in the country and contribute to its recovery.

It undoubtedly had a striking result on a single organization. When the head of Amada, an engineering company, heard that it didn’t qualify for the new index, which demands a minimal return on shareholders’ funds, he ordered a radical adjust of path: the dividend was raised by two thirds and a share “purchase-back” programme – made to make more effective use of a company’s capital – was announced.

Sarah Williams, who manages the Threadneedle Japan fund, mentioned the new index, whose variety criteria also reward companies that appoint independent directors, adopt international accounting specifications and report monetary outcomes in English, could have a “substantial” impact on the efficiency of Japanese companies and their rewards for shareholders.

Several specialists feel that whilst Japan’s technologies and manufacturing processes could be at the cutting edge, its organization culture is caught in the past. For illustration, numerous firms have “crossshareholdings” – business A owns, say, a 25pc stake in organization B and vice versa – which offer a block to takeovers. And, provided the culture of “jobs for life”, this implies that organization directors feel immune from strain to increase their game.

Associated Content articles

  • Will Europe comply with Japan and send its stock marketplace soaring?

    eleven Jan 2014

  • Isa fund suggestions: Uk, US, Europe and Japan

    04 Apr 2014

  • Funds to back if European stock markets boom like Japan’s

    11 Jan 2014

  • Fund guidelines: The ideal Japan funds for Isa savers

    01 Jul 2014

  • Japan: Investment punt of the decade?

    thirty Sep 2013

Initiatives this kind of as the new index and government moves to boost the way companies are run could make firms far more exposed to the rigours of capitalism’s “innovative destruction” and so improve returns for investors.

A shake-up in Japan’s boardrooms is not the only weapon becoming deployed to finish the country’s stagnation, which has noticed deflation, plunges in share and house values and sky-high government debt. A new prime minister with a strong mandate and supportive central financial institution has embarked on a three-pronged try to leap-start off the economic system.

The initial prong is a substantial round of money-printing by the Bank of Japan (see under), intended to beat deflation. The second is a programme of government paying to enhance infrastructure and put spare capability in the economy to productive use. The third is a series of reforms such as tax changes, special financial zones and encouraging much more women to join the workforce.

The three actions, allied with the reform to the way companies are run, sum to a revolution. But will they be adequate to flip the economy – and the stock market – about?

Alexander Treves of Fidelity, a veteran investor in Japan, explained he noticed encouraging indications. “First, unemployment is as lower as it has been for a prolonged time. This need to lead to increasing wages and consequently rising charges, required to support beat deflation.

“Inflation encourages firms to create, invest and end hoarding money. Hoarding income rather of investing it is rational in a deflationary atmosphere, so overcoming deflation is actually crucial.”

Mr Treves stated that on stability he anticipated the reforms to realize success, though “Japan is a complex nation and you are not able to transform it overnight – it will be a couple of years just before we’ll know if it has worked”.

He was also positive about the stock industry. “The fundamentals are much better than they have been for some time, valuations are not high-priced and a lot of investors gave up on Japan extended in the past, so the story is not broadly recognized.”

If you do want to invest, Killik &amp Co, the stockbroker, tipped the Morant Wright Japan fund and the Schroder Japan Development investment trust, presently on a 10pc discount. A lot of specialists anticipate the yen to fall more, so you may want a “hedged” fund.

Other highly-regarded Japan money contain Jupiter Japan Revenue and Melchior Japan Benefit .

Or, for investors who prefer investment trusts, along with Schroder Japan Growth are Aberdeen Japan (also at the moment trading at a 10pc discount) and the common Baillie Gifford Japan trust. The latter is trading at a tiny, 1pc premium, that means purchasing shares now would involve paying somewhat far more than the value of the trust’s underlying assets. But the premium has been even wider during the past 12 months.

‘QE won’t remedy Japan’s troubles – or Europe’s’

Japan has been caught in deflation for years and is printing huge quantities of funds to defeat it. There are signs that Europe is heading for deflation also. Need to it adhere to Japan and embark on “QE”?

One economist is convinced that QE is ineffective. Richard Koo of the Nomura Analysis Institute in Tokyo has examined the causes of Japan’s slump and concluded that a shortage of cash to lend to companies was not the problem.

“The real difficulty in Japan was that companies borrowed far as well considerably in the boom, had been mortgaged towards assets that had plunged in value, and just wanted to pay out off their debts,” he mentioned. “They had no interest in borrowing, no matter how a lot cheap money was on supply.

“Europe is in the exact same predicament. Peripheral nations want massive government spending programmes due to the fact no a single else desires to spend – QE won’t help.”

Investment guidelines every week by email – sign up here

See all our investment stories on your Facebook page – like us at