The aphorism “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is now being internalized by the financial world. In a league of their own, activist investors are taking great measures to rebrand themselves as “engagement” funds. Typically, this designation is reserved for an individual or group that purchases a significant stake of a publicly traded company and tries to implement major changes within said company’s business model.
In Japan, aggressive investors are facing many hurdles due to a corporate culture that has traditionally favored the status quo and shunned precarious deviations like stock-splits or spinoffs (agendas frequently pushed by activist investors). However, rebranded “engagement” funds have been positively received because of their platform of healthy corporate engagement rather than excessive antagonism. Many Japanese companies are actually looking to cultivate their capital structure and operational risk management while maintaining robust shareholder relations. According to the country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, they are all key elements to “revitalize the corporate sector to restore growth.”
The nation’s economy has been waiting for a proper catalyst for years. The effects from the Bank of Japan’s monetary stimulus last year are now visible by the optimistic inflation expectations. Furthermore, there have been hints that real GDP growth will become positive within the next six months. Japan has become increasingly attractive not only because of the surge in small companies moving there, but also an influx of foreign direct investment into the country. The logistics of following this trend is discussed extensively in our ‘Doing Business in Japan’ module.
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