Japan Said to Push Back JT Sale, Sees No Immediate Cash Need

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Japan’s government has decided to push back the sale of its remaining stake in Japan Tobacco Inc., Asia’s largest listed cigarette maker, according to officials familiar with the matter.

A committee under the Finance Ministry’s fiscal system council will announce the decision by the end of June, one official said, asking not to be named per ministry policy. Another official said surplus revenue from a special income tax for reconstruction means proceeds from any JT share sales aren’t immediately needed.

The tobacco company’s shares fell 0.9 percent to the lowest level in more than a month to close at 4,308.5 yen.

Under a law passed in 2011, the government can sell part of its stake in the former tobacco monopoly to help fund reconstruction after an earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima the same year. It cut its stake to 33 percent in 2013 to raise 978 billion yen ($7.9 billion).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said in November the government should consider selling its remaining stake in JT, leading to a full privatization for the tobacco company which sells Winston and Camel cigarettes outside the U.S.

The Finance Ministry has dropped the idea of selling its entire stake in JT to fund earthquake rebuilding, although it still plans to fully privatize the company eventually, the Nikkei newspaper reported on June 13, without citing anybody.

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