Billionaire Mikitani Threatens Abe With Court Over Drug Sales

Hiroshi Mikitani, the billionaire head of online retailer Rakuten Inc., said he would take the government to court if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approves a bill that would keep some regulations on online drug sales.

“If this proposal is passed into law, then unfortunately I’ll have no other option but to resign” from a key government council on industrial competitiveness, Mikitani, 48, told reporters in Tokyo today. “This is an unreasonable and archaic principle they are trying to stick to.”

The resignation of Mikitani, one of Japan’s leading entrepreneurs, may deliver a blow to the image of Abe as he pushes legislation for his growth strategy through the current Diet session, which he said would be one for “getting things done.” The government proposal would continue to restrict the online sale of 28 drug products -- a regulation Mikitani strongly opposes.

“It goes totally against Abe’s policies,” said Mikitani, who said he would convey his feelings to Abe. “I cannot forgive this. I will continue fighting.”

Mikitani noted that the online sale of 99 percent of over-the-counter drugs would be allowed under the proposal.

Fifteen of 34 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News said a lack of bolder steps on the growth strategy is undermining the Bank of Japan’s campaign to reflate the economy after more than a decade of falling prices.

Key initiatives on the table in the growth strategy -- dubbed the “third arrow” of Abenomics -- are steps to encourage corporate restructuring to boost industrial competitiveness and the introduction of zones for deregulation in fields from medical treatment to urban development.

The government needs to sustain growth momentum ahead of a sales tax increase next April that is forecast to push the economy into a quarter of contraction.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Sharp in Tokyo at asharp5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Panckhurst at ppanckhurst@bloomberg.net

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