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2009 Japanese IPOs December 4, 2009

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, IPO, Japan.

So, a grand total of 19 IPOs for the whole of calendar year 2009.

Down from 49 last year (and the market thought that was bad…)

Looking on the bright side, I don’t think it is physically possible to go even lower next year. Yay!

On the other hand, a V shaped recovery back to the heady bubble days isn’t going to happen. So tough times ahead for people trying to make a living on supporting the IPO and venture markets…

As for concrete numbers, we are hearing estimates from 30~60 new IPOs next year. Some people are eternal optimists it seems….

CRU, “Climategate” and reporting in the Japanese media December 3, 2009

Posted by fukumimi in Communications, Economy & Business, Energy, Environment, Japan, Media.

Or the absence thereof.

It’s come to a point where the situation is beyond absurd. The story has been reported in all the respectable (and not so respectable) English media outlets I keep up with (NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, Times (UK), Guardian, Telegraph, the Indy, special mention of that esteemed outlet the Washington Times whose reporting hardly contained its glee), to a point where it is silly to accuse “the media” of greenwashing.

On the other hand, there seems to be a coordinated effort to keep this out of the Japanese mainstream press. Do a Google News search for say, “climate change” + “data” (気候変動 データ)  or “(global) warming” + “data” (温暖化 データ) or “CRU” (University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, for those of you who have been living under a rock (or in Japan) for the last week or so), and you get (if you are lucky) a grand total of three relevant Japanese language hits. A Bloomberg article, a Slashdot.jp piece and a Wired Vision piece buried in Nikkei’s PC Online publication’s security section. The Bloomberg and Slashdot pieces are dated Dec 2nd. The Wired Vision/PC Online piece is dated Nov 30 (but I suspect the editors thought it was a piece on hacking and it slipped through the net).

None of the major papers, Nikkei, Yomiuri, Asahi, Sankei, Mainichi… None appear to have a related story on this piece of pretty important news in any form searchable on the internet. NONE. Same goes for the TV media. Nothing on NHK, or any of the commercial terrestrial channels.

If I were a betting man, I would have money on this being a Ministry of the Environment Press Club managed greenwash of the most outrageous proportions.

So much for the new administration being a change from the old regime. Either the Minister and Vice-Minister (hello Minister Sakihito Ozawa, Vice-Minister Issei Tajima) are totally clueless, or are, like so many of their predecessors from the now exiled LDP, in cahoots with the bureaucrats in keeping a lid on important news (until at least  Copenhagen COP15, or maybe even longer).

So yet again, we have the media and other forces (the govt and/or bureaucracy and most likely business interests – who seem to have developed a taste for various green subsidies which are quickly turning into the new pork barrel money drip) seemingly taking a united stance against informing the general public about an actual topic worthy of discussion. Not like some actress caught doing drugs. Or the world’s best golf player’s dubious tastes in women.

It is highly unlikely that this story will be kept under wraps for too long. The story is too big for someone not to break rank and do a “scoop”, a week or two (or more?) after the rest of the world. And then the floodgates will open.

But it has to be asked, what are the media getting in return? So much talk of how commercial media (and their ecosystem partners) are in so much financial pain. Maybe something to ease that pain is in the works? I have a strong suspicion that might just be what the doctor ordered.

2008 Japanese IPOs December 4, 2008

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan.
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Back in February I posted about predictions for the number of IPOs we’ll see this year. Market consensus (based on a Nikkei poll of market “experts”) was 100-120 IPOs.


The actual number we will see through end of December is 49. 41 IPOs (including one today) so far this year, and 8 more lined up for December (including Gree, the #2 SNS (after Mixi) in Japan).

The end of year IPO window closure that was being touted failed to materialize, which is fortunate because if Nov/Dec were not available we would have been down to 36.

If we look at FY08, through 3 quarters we will have had 28 IPOs, with Q4(Jan-Mar) being a shortened quarter as IPOs in Jan are as rare as hens’ teeth.

Monthly breakdown:

Jan    –

Feb    9

Mar   12

Apr    1

May   1

Jun    1

Jul     1

Aug   4

Sep   3

Oct   4

Nov  4

Dec  9

This is my first post in months, hope to resume regular blogging soon. Hopefully not dwelling too much on the financial turmoil and my doom and gloom predictions for next year….

The GM crops issue April 21, 2008

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Environment, Food and Drink.
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Reading the IHT today, couldn’t help but notice that the headline replaces what I thought was the usual GM tag for the more high tech, less sinister sounding?, “biotech” “In lean times, biotech crops are less taboo, IHT


What if the surge in prices isn’t just about hedge funds pumping up the commodity markets and the criminal non-cellulosic bioethanol drive, but also partly due to the fact that GM crops are directly contributing to this trend due to lower yields, as a University of Kansas study has found (Independent).

If any academic institutions were able to be bought out by the agribusiness lobby, surely this one would be an easy target being situated right in the middle of the US grain belt…..

Rakuten launches English language site (sort of) December 18, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, Japan.

Rakuten, Japan’s largest on-line shopping mall, has launched an English language service.

Sort of.

The top page has been translated, but that’s it. Not very useful, really.

Rakuten has previously announced that it is setting its sights on overseas expansion, and I guess this is the first tiny step in that direction.

But is this the right way to go about it? English language users might stumble upon the English site, and will quickly see that the rest of the site is not translated. And they will likely never return. First impressions count, and I feel this particular piecemeal approach will be counterproductive.I’m sure they’re currently dealing with the backend fulfilment and logistics issues, and they probably wanted to show some visible signs that they are indeed planning to target non-Japanese audiences. A cynic might say this is an IR play.

Kicking Away the Ladder September 15, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, History.
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(Something I had begun writing more than a month ago and was sitting in my drafts folder)

For people who are interested in the hows and whys of historical successes in economic development, and especially the impact of foreign trade and the conditions thereof (and who isn’t?), this piece in the Independent is a good place to start.

If that piques your interest, Ha-Joon Chang’s “Kicking Away the Ladder” itself is also a good read.

Of course, economic development of entire nations does not rise or fall on just one issue, however given the fairly one-sided debate (discounting the failed economic models which continue to have religious adherents) which conveniently glosses over significant historical facts, it is heartening to see a piece in the mainstream press (albeit in the Indy which many may(!) consider left of centre) which challenges the dogma that a strict form of free market capitalism is the best model for the economic development of a developing nation (especially in a highly assymetric environment with powerful external forces), and might persuade some people to dig into the matter in more detail.

When I first read Kicking Away the Ladder, what struck me most was the (re-)realization that formal history education is sorely lacking. People harp on about how the Japanese education system’s history text books are inaccurate (or gloss over awkward issues), but I certainly saw little evidence of any attempt at tackling the multi-dimensional nature of historical events in any of the other attempts at taught history in any other country either.

How long will the PV venture funding boom continue? September 14, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Energy, Japan, Overseas.
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Lots of and lots of money being ploughed into photovoltaics at the moment, especially hot is non-Si thin film solar. Nanosolar, Heliovolt, Miasole, Solyndra, DayStar, the list goes on. Each one has raised tens of millions of $ of VC financing. Most of these non-Si PV companies are doing CIGS (Cu-In-Ga-Se) thin films or variations thereof, but it seems things are not going to plan in the world of thin film solar ventures. Lots of reported management changes, including this latest one, but the money keeps pouring in.

It appears the companies are finding the transition from the lab to factory a bit more difficult than they had imagined.

To be fair, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)seems to be doing great, recently closing a $1B+ deal with EdF. (Current market cap $7.2B) They have a different technology, based on a CdTe thin film process.

Meanwhile, Si-based PVs keep on being cranked out, and the supply side issues for Si are being addressed with PV grade Si production ramping up.

Of course, some people are further along the path to mass production CIGS-type PV cell production. Whilst Japan is recognized as a significant player in Si PV production, the competition to the thin film PV ventures from Japanese interests have not really been convered in much detail (the cleantech community seems aware of these Japanese players, but the investment community seems to prefer to pretend this competition does not exist). You see statements like this from the above CNET article –

“CIGS aren’t in mass manufacturing yet anywhere and cracking that problem is proving tricky. There are several companies trying to bring products out and each has a slightly different manufacturing technique.”

Honda Soltec, a 100% subsidiary of Honda Motor Company, has been selling CIGS modules since June 2007. Soltec’s manufacturing facility is currently just 27.5MW/yr, but it is expected that Honda will ramp up as large scale manufacturing techniques are validated.

Showa Shell also announced that they are building a second factory to produce CIS based modules adding a further 60MW/yr to the current 20MW/yr from their first factory which began operations last year.

Both companies have years/decades of R&D behind them, and they have immense resources in manufacturing at their disposal. I know what kind of company I would bet on to succeed in the lab to mass production transition, all else being equal. (My investment thesis focuses on this qualifier. There are plenty of areas for improvement in the current state of the art in thin film manufacturing)

Interesting to note, both companies have their PV factories in Kyushu. Kyushu, which was already dubbed Silicon Island due to its strength in the semiconductor sector (major players with production facilities include Sony, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric, Rohm, Toyoda Gosei, TI Japan,Canon, Kyocera, Renesas, NEC, AKM, Matushita, Yamaha, Pioneer) is rapidly becoming photovoltaic island as well, with Honda Soltec and Showa Shell being joined by players such as Fuji Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (both a-Si manufacturers), and SUMCO recently announcing that they are building a new PV silicon wafer plant in Imari with a n equivalent capacity of 300MW/yr.

Guess who gets Comsn’s care businesses? September 13, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Economy & Business, Japan, Society.
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A previous post relating to Comsn’s divestiture of its care businesses.

Comsn has announced their plans for divesting their care businesses.

The residential home business goes to Nichii Gakkan.

The homebound care businesses are to be divested on a prefecture by prefecture basis (PR). Japan Care Service gets 13 prefectures, Nichii gets 5. (Various others make up the balance)

Why do I mention Nichii and JCS? Because they were both also implicated by the Tokyo metropolitan government for illegal practices.

I guess Comsn/GWG’s statement regarding their selection of buyers for the businesses – specifically that part about selecting buyers who can show that they are lawabiding corporate citizens with solid compliance trackrecords – has gone out the window.

As I had predicted, the MHLW seems to be spinning this as a Comsn problem, they announced that the amount Comsn has been billing illegally now stands at nearly JPY1.5B. No mention of other companies in the report, though.

I guess they have managed to do their job and make everyone forget that it isn’t just a Comsn problem. The fact that the mainstream media is willing to let this one go unnoticed seems to be par for the course. It still makes me sick, though.

Stock markets bet on Aso as the next PM September 12, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan.
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From the Yomiuri

With ex-foreign minister Taro Aso seen as the odds on favorite to become the next PM, manga/anime stocks were up today. Aso is a self-proclaimed manga otaku. Stocks which rose today include Mandarake – the manga and related goods retailer, Production I.G, the anime production company (who was the 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year Japan – quick plug for the EOY JAPAN programme…), and other related stocks such as Sotsu, the animation licensing company, Toei Animation, and Bandai Visual.

Also up was Aso Foamcrete, the only company within the Aso Group which is traded on the markets. (Taro Aso was the President of Aso Cement (now Aso Lafarge Cement), the keystone company within the Aso Group. The Aso Group was/is a regional zaibatsu based out of Fukuoka.

More on the plug-in Prius July 27, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Energy, Japan.
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Looks like Toyota showed off their new Prius based plug-in hybrid.

First thought.

Looks expensive.  (it isn’t going to go on sale any time soon)

The new car weighs a full 100kg more than the standard Prius, pretty much all of this is rechargeable batteries. (the plug-in recharger electronics aren’t going to be that heavy)

That pretty much triples the battery capacity (actually, add a bit more due to the switch from Ni-MH to Li-ion).

Full EV range is quoted as 13km, based on the unintelligible Japanese 10.15 mode standard.

For people who are prone to doing short trips, significant savings in fuel costs would appear possible.

Next stop, selling a solar panel roofed carport (or a module on the roof of the house proper) to further cut down on energy expenses. (Honda seems to be making more visible moves in this area, to be fair…)