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Japanese companies, long known for being stingy with shareholders, doled out record amounts of cash to investors in the past year. It’s just the start of the payouts.

Dividends and buybacks soared 76 percent to ¥12.8 trillion in the 12 months ended in March, according to Nomura Holdings Inc., which projects the returns will keep rising. In an example that would have been inconceivable in years past, the secretive robot-maker Fanuc Corp. was prodded by American activist Daniel Loeb into doubling the percentage of profit it would return to shareholders.

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