Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
from Summit Notebook:
The conventional wisdom is that private equity is comatose in Japan, at best, with some major firms leaving Tokyo, deal numbers sliding and even old Japan hands like Advantage Partners seen as looking to exit mature investments.
Yet Richard Folsom, Representative Partner of Advantage, tells a very different story with deals in the pipeline, finance on tap and some ripe fruit about to be picked -- even if his firm has yet to announce a new investment deal this year.
Private equity in Japan is just over 10 years old, after a rule change in 1997, and makes up about 3-4 percent of merger deals, by Folsom's math.
That may seem low, but he says the private equity business in Germany and the United States was similarly small at the same stage of their development -- suggesting fund buyouts might leap to 10 or 20 percent of deals over the next five or ten years as Japan follows the path set by others.
For the crowd waiting for Prime Minister Taro Aso to show up for a campaign speech in Ome on the western edge of Tokyo, it was a bit like watching the warm-up acts before the main attraction.
Aso picked ruling party candidate Akinobu Nomura’s home district of Ome to kick off a campaign for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the results of which are likely to affect the unpopular 68-year-old premier’s chances of keeping his own job ahead of a nationwide poll expected next month.
from Summit Notebook:
Even in the best of times, Japan has never been a cakewalk for foreign investors. But in the wake of the global credit crisis, the world's second-largest economy can be downright baffling.
The global financial crisis has been a catalyst for many to look back at history and see what, if anything, was learned from Japan’s so-called “Lost decade” in the 1990s, as well as the Great Depression, to which the turmoil is most often compared.
But few have gone as far back as Tadashi Kikugawa, a former hot-shot trader of Japanese government bonds, who was a key market source of mine over the years.
After working at brokerages including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, he left the high-octane financial world in May last year to run a small, private museum for ancient Egyptian art in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.
It's starting to look like the Summer of Love. Two reasons: The recovery is taking on a L-U-V shape globally, and it's going to require huge amounts of love and nurturing to keep growth alive.
L stands for Europe, where slowness to confront deep damage and write down the remaining $500 billion odd in bad bank debt, mean rebuilding will be protracted and painful.
The United States sports a U, bouncing along bottom right. But its financial giants swallowed harsh medicine early and the U.S. has the flexibility to stage an impressive rebound, if not undone by a fast-rising jobless rate at 9.5 percent and heavily indebted consumers.
V stands for Asia (ex Japan), the surprise region showing resiliency, thanks to its rapid Q4/Q1 inventory workdown and huge infrastructure spend by China.
Like the Summer of Love 41 years ago, it is a drug-fueled affair. G20 governments are peddling $820 billion in stimulus this year, equivalent to 2 percent of GDP. Central bankers are spending even more. The Fed has doubled its balance sheet to $2.04 trillion the past 12 months.
Pope Benedict has been criticised for his handling of relationships with the world's other religions. On Monday Tuesday, he is due to receive at the Vatican Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has little difficulty with mixing and matching various faiths.
Though an avowed member of Japan's tiny Roman Catholic minority, Aso regularly pays respects and offers gifts at Shinto shrines. Japan's indigenous religion of Shinto is polytheistic -- its doctrine says the world is crowded with divinities, mostly in natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, wind and mountains. Combining this with Christianity's monotheism may sound like a contradiction, but it is something many Japanese Catholics take in their stride.
What’s in a name? A lot, according to one Japanese lawmaker, who’s appalled by his country’s schizophrenia over how to pronounce the two ideographs rendered in English as “Japan”.
“What is the formal name of this country? Overseas, it is called ‘Japan’, but Japanese people say both ‘Nihon’ and ‘Nippon’,” opposition parliament member Tetsundo Iwakuni told me.
A survey by the Japan Productivity Centre, a private think tank, showed over 80 percent of new recruits picking working late over having a date.
I learned of Michael Jackson’s death this morning in a news bulletin from public broadcaster NHK, when the anchor began with: “This is urgent news just in from the United States.”
I wondered what had happened? News from President Obama? Another U.S. bank failure?
It may seem like a bad joke, but some say Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party just might be desperate enough to take up an offer from a ex-comedian to take over as leader.
Unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso’s LDP party is sagging in the polls with an election just months away. The party’s fear of defeat after more than half a century of almost unbroken rule is prompting lawmakers to plot miraculous rescue scenarios, many beginning with dumping the PM.