Japan's billionaires reap windfall from BOJ's October surprise


The Bank of Japan’s unexpected stimulus has already made the country’s richest even wealthier, adding more than $3 billion to the four top billionaires’ net worth.

Fast Retailing Co. Chairman Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s richest person, saw his fortune grow by about $2 billion in the three trading days since the BOJ’s Oct. 31 announcement that sparked a plunge in the yen and a rally in stocks.

While billionaires such as Yanai gained, the central bank’s unprecedented asset purchases to support economic growth have yet to show evidence of spreading beyond Japan’s wealthiest people and corporations.

Toyota Motor Corp., the country’s biggest company, on Wednesday cited the weaker yen in raising its annual profit forecast to a record ¥2 trillion.

“The top 10 percent or 20 percent are getting richer, while on the other hand the bottom 20 percent to 30 percent are becoming poorer,” said Tatsushi Maeno, head of Japanese equities at Pinebridge Investments Japan Co. “The equity market rally could accelerate this trend.”

Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank Corp. and Japan’s second-richest person, is up by $182 million since the BOJ decision, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Keyence Corp. Chairman Takemitsu Takizaki, the country’s No. 3 billionaire, added $434 million to his fortune and Rakuten Inc. President Hiroshi Mikitani, the next richest, saw an extra $393 million, based on closing prices Wednesday.

Estimates of billionaires’ net worth were compiled based on the billionaires’ shareholdings and other assets, and the yen’s value versus the dollar as of Wednesday.

Stocks also rallied after the Government Pension Investment Fund said it would buy more local shares.

“The short-term result is good for everybody,” said Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities Economic Research Institute. “It’s the government directly intervening in the Japanese equity market.”

BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda is executing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to do whatever it takes to weaken the yen and end deflation.

Even before the past week, Abe’s policies had been good to the country’s wealthy, helping to boost the ranks of high net-worth individuals.

Japanese with investable assets of at least $1 million, increased their wealth 24 percent last year to $5.5 trillion, according to a report released Oct. 20 by Royal Bank of Canada and Cap Gemini SA.

The number of millionaires in Japan rose 22 percent to 2.3 million, it said.

For working Japanese, wealth isn’t expanding as fast. Average monthly salaries — adjusted for inflation — fell 2.9 percent in September, the 15th straight monthly decline, according to preliminary data released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

A failure to increase wages next fiscal year poses a big downside risk for the economy, according to Naoyuki Shinohara, a deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Shopping is also getting more costly. Private consumption slumped after the consumption tax was increase on April 1, contributing to the worst economic contraction since the first quarter of 2009.

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