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With Brexit, Japan Inc. gets acquisition bargains

by Dave Mccombs and Shigeru Sato

Bloomberg

Japanese companies, which have embarked on a $210 billion global acquisition spree over the past three years, are getting a surprise bargain out of Brexit.

The yen soared Friday to its highest in more than two years, boosting local firms’ purchasing power for deals abroad and potentially saving them hundreds of millions of dollars on purchases they’ve already announced. NTT Data Corp. and Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. are among Japanese companies with a combined $23 billion of overseas acquisitions agreed to in the past 12 months that are still pending, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The unexpected windfall could offer a small silver lining as export-driven corporate Japan braces for economic uncertainty, with the Topix index falling Friday by the most since 2011.

Canon Inc., the world’s biggest camera maker, warned that British voters’ decision to leave the EU could undermine the economic recovery in Japan, while automotive supplier Exedy Corp. said it may consider moving its office out of the U.K.

“It’s a bargain for those Japanese firms which have built cash in yen at home and have an acquisition deal in the works,” said Makoto Shiono, a Tokyo-based partner at merger advisory firm Industrial Growth Platform Inc. “The cost of their deals clinched in U.S. dollars and euros has gotten lower.”

Japan’s currency jumped as much as 7.2 percent Friday, the most in more than three decades, and strengthened past ¥100 per dollar for the first time since 2013. It is now up 17 percent since the start of the year. The yen gained as much as 10 percent against the euro, the most intraday in more than seven years.

The biggest pending outbound deal from Japan is NTT Data’s $3.1 billion purchase of Dell Inc.’s technology services businesses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. NTT Data, an arm of the former Japanese telephone monopoly, clinched the deal in March when the dollar was valued at about ¥113.45. The Japanese currency climbed as far as ¥99.02 at one point in Tokyo trading Friday, shaving about ¥44 billion ($430 million) off the local-currency price tag for the deal.

Asahi, the brewer of Super Dry lager, agreed in April to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands for ¥2.55 billion ($2.8 billion). The beer maker agreed to acquire the brands in February, when the euro was trading at about ¥128. The Japanese currency strengthened Friday to as much as ¥109.57 to the euro, at that point making the deal about ¥47 billion cheaper for Asahi in local-currency terms.

To be sure, the yen could weaken in coming days if market jitters subside or the Bank of Japan intervenes in the currency market, which would erase some of the benefits for Japanese acquirers. The actual price of the purchases may not be affected if the companies pay for them with foreign currency they hold or borrow offshore to fund the deals.

Asahi said it doesn’t expect the U.K. vote outcome to have an effect on its purchase of the European brands. The company will use external funds to pay for the acquisition, Asahi spokesman Takuo Soga said by phone. NTT Data hasn’t decided how it will finance the acquisition from Dell, and it hasn’t set a target completion date, said Nobuhiko Toda, a spokesman for the company.

Including deals at home, cash-rich Japanese companies have been involved in $66 billion of acquisitions this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the yen’s strength gives companies greater firepower to make purchases abroad, Japanese companies may need to take more time to examine how Brexit would affect the business prospects of overseas companies they’re targeting, according to Toshiro Takeda, a Tokyo-based principal at M&A consulting firm Mercer Japan Ltd.

Uncertainty in Europe will erode Japanese companies’ appetite for business expansion in the region, and they may take a wait-and-see approach toward substantial investment, said Mari Iwashita, chief market economist at SMBC Friend Securities Co.

“If you are a brave investor, the U.K. is on sale right now,” said Jacky Scanlan-Dyas, a corporate partner at Hogan Lovells in Tokyo. “The pound is very low and interest rates are very low — but in my experience Japanese corporates don’t invest for short-term profits, they invest for long-term relationships.”