The Winners and Losers of Japan's Landslide ElectionBy
Exporters, nuclear power and defense firms likely to benefit
National sales tax may hurt Seven & I and other retailers
The landslide victory in Japan for the party behind Abenomics is likely to be good news for industries from nuclear power to defense, while posing challenges to others such as retailers.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition retained its two-thirds majority in the lower house in Sunday’s election, paving the way for more ultra-easy monetary policy that has boosted Japanese stocks to the highest level in two decades and helped Asia’s second-biggest economy expand for six straight quarters. At the same time, pressure is growing for Abe to increase stagnant wage growth and overhaul the labor market to replenish a rapidly aging workforce.
“Corporate Japan is determined to play a role in rebuilding our economy and is cooperating with the Abe administration’s strategy,” Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of Japan’s main business lobby Keidanren, said in a statement.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average on Monday capped its longest winning streak on record, gaining for a 15th straight day amid expectations corporate earnings will benefit from the continuation of ultra-easy monetary policy.
Here’s what the election results mean for key industries and companies:
Abe won office in 2012 with a central bank policy of massive quantitative easing that pushed the yen lower. The currency has weakened from a 2011 peak and provided a tailwind for many of the countries’ biggest manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp.
Corporate profits have been boosted by a resurgence in Japanese exports, which have shown double-digit gains in the past three months. Some of the companies that stand to gain the most from a depreciating yen include Fanuc Corp., Canon Inc. and Nintendo Co., as most of their sales come from overseas.
The question going forward is how long the government will continue its stimulus plans. With inflation still weak and wage growth still sluggish, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has been staying the course with its massive monetary easing program.
Abe also billed the snap election as a chance to test public opinion on an increase in the national sales tax. When he raised the levy in 2014, the economy tipped into recession. Abe has twice since put it off but recent signs of growth make it hard to justify a further delay.
In the election campaign, Abe linked an envisioned increase in the levy to 10 percent from 8 percent in October 2019 to planned spending on education and support for young families. That may help companies including education-related publisher Benesse Holdings Inc. and cram-school operator Gakken Holdings Co.
Retail and consumer giants such as Seven & i Holdings Co., Aeon Co. and Kirin Holdings Co. may suffer as higher taxes undermine consumer spending.
Abe campaigned on his administration’s record in responding to missile tests and militant rhetoric from North Korea. This has prompted expectations his administration intends to maintain increases in spending on weapons made by companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Toshiba Corp. and IHI Corp.
Abe has vowed to restart more reactors after the nation’s atomic fleet was idled for safety checks following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station. Abe’s win on Sunday came against the party of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has said she backs eliminating nuclear power and increasing the use of renewable energy sources.
Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. remain the most dependent on nuclear power, while industrial conglomerates such as Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy are major suppliers to the industry.
Abe’s party has said it is considering raising taxes on electronic tobacco products, while leaving levies on conventional cigarettes at current levels. Former monopoly Japan Tobacco Inc. has lost ground to overseas rivals Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc, which have taken the lead in Japan’s fast-growing market for heat-not-burn smoking.
Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has so far balked at proposals to ban smoking indoors ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
An Abe victory is good news for companies like Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., which are jostling for position as the government moves toward allowing casino resorts in Japan. The prime minister has supported the initiative as a means to boost the domestic economy. A substantial loss of seats in the election to the opposition could have emboldened critics of the casino plan, which surveys show is unpopular with voters.
The election itself has delayed until next year the submission of legislation laying out rules for gambling resorts. Legislators will probably hold off on submitting the bill until May or June, a government official with knowledge of the plans said last month. Casinos in Japan aren’t likely to open before 2023, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
— With assistance by Lisa Du, Isabel Reynolds, and Stephen Stapczynski