As the end of March nears, more and more people are looking to acquire stocks — many just for a short time.

If they have stakes in certain firms on March 31, when many Japanese companies close their books, they may receive shareholder perks — special treats, services or collector items given just to investors.

The wide range of perks is attracting more individual investors, and the number of firms that have introduced them has increased nearly threefold in the past decade as they look to woo loyal shareholders, experts said.

Oriental Land Co.’s perks have been some of the most popular in recent years. The operator of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea gives investors who have 100 or more shares a free one-day “passport” that lets them in one of the theme parks without waiting in a long line.

Toy makers Takara Co. and Tomy Co. plan to provide specialty toys for shareholders as of March 31. Takara will give out the popular Licca dolls and Choro-Q spring-powered toy cars to investors holding at least 1,000 shares. Tomy will offer a set of minivan toys for holders of at least 100 shares.

To become eligible for the perks, investors must buy stocks by March 25. Many companies offer perks twice annually — after Sept. 30 and after March 31 — and some do it in other months.

The number of companies that offer the incentives had increased to 913 as of Thursday from 349 in 1995. There was a net rise of about 80 in the past year after subtracting firms that discontinued the perks, according to Daiwa Investor Relations Co.

“It is only a matter of time before there are 1,000 firms giving out shareholder perks,” said Tetsuyuki Yoneyama, a director at Daiwa. “I don’t expect the incentives to lose steam for a while.”

Shareholder perks are also offered in the United States and Britain, by companies that include the Starbucks coffee shop chain, chocolatier Cadbury and British Airways. Almost 25 percent of all listed firms in Japan now offer perks. This ratio exceeds that of the U.S. and Britain, Yoneyama said.

The trend here was set by Kagome Co., Japan’s largest manufacturer of processed tomato foods. In 2001, the company began offering pasta source, ketchup and vegetable juice and found the system boosted individual investors, who became fans of its products, Yoneyama said.

Giving perks may be a good way to attract individual investors, but experts warn that some firms’ share prices may fall in the short term, because some investors cash in their stocks as soon as they achieved the right to get the perks.

Experts also noted that investors should remember to examine a firm’s growth potential when hunting stocks instead of jumping on just for perks, if they plan to hold onto shares for a while.

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