Category Archives: BUSINESS

Dubious development site in Kyoto finds buyer

An offshore buyer may have been found for a large block of land with an interesting history in central Kyoto.

The land is located in one of Kyoto’s leading tourist areas. Amidst a booming tourism industry and improving real estate market, a property such as this should have buyers lining out the door to bid on it. Despite the best efforts of the seller, however, no local buyers dared come forward. The problem, as claimed by the Shukan Post tabloid, was due to the seller’s alleged ties to the North Korean regime.

The article claimed that the alleged connection came to light back in 2013 when it was alleged that the same seller was supposedly the financial backer of a failed bid on the foreclosed Chongryon headquarters in Tokyo.

According to un-named industry insiders, the seller had allegedly approached numerous real estate companies, developers and hotel operators in order to sell the land. None were willing to take on the potential risk of such an acquisition, with some suggesting that a sale to a domestic buyer was not very likely due to concerns that the Japanese government may step in to intervene if there was any perceived notion or allegation that the proceeds of the sale could possibly be indirectly funneled towards supporting the North Korean regime and their missile and nuclear weapons program.

When the seller acquired the 10,000 sqm block land in 2012, some insiders suggested the sale price could have been around 5 billion Yen at the time. The recent sale of a fifth of the land is rumored to have been around 11 billion Yen (approx. 98 million USD).

The author of the Shukan Post article expressed concern that the US-based buyer may either not be fully aware of the alleged background of the seller, or simply not concerned …continue reading


Can we preserve Asia’s ‘long peace’?

Author: Kevin Rudd, Asia Society

How can we save Asia’s ‘long peace’? Right now, the world is legitimately focused on the emerging North Korean nuclear crisis. This has been a crisis long in the making, beginning with the Soviet training of North Korean nuclear scientists and engineers after the Second World War, the North’s expulsion of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in 2002 and the subsequent series of ballistic and nuclear weapons tests.

Foreign ministers applaud after a group photo at the start of the 7th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as part of the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meetings in Manila, Philippines 7 August 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Aaron Favila).

The uncomfortable truth is that for the last quarter of a century, the international community has simply been kicking this can down the road. And now, at one minute to midnight, everyone is scrambling on what to do about it.

There is a further, more substantial question, however, which we must equally consider for the medium- to long-term, and that is Asia’s collective failure to produce a united voice on not just the evolution of the North Korean threat but on the plethora of other threats confronting long-term stability, security and peace. And the equally uncomfortable truth is that there …continue reading


Losing hope in Japan’s snap election

Author: Corey Wallace, Free University of Berlin

After months of doubts about his long-term viability as prime minister, Shinzo Abe’s national approval ratings began trending upwards in August 2017. North Korean provocations and a parliamentary recess starved scandals surrounding Abe of media oxygen. Meanwhile the opposition Democratic Party (DP) became even more disjointed after electing Seiji Maehara as its new leader as the question of electoral cooperation with the Communist Party in single member district (SMDs) seats further exacerbated internal divisions.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, head of Japan’s Party of Hope, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan, 6 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Against a divided opposition that was without an election strategy and losing prominent centrist members to what seemed like a loose and still disorganised proto-party for Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s future ambitions, Abe calculated the public would likely put aside their distrust towards him. An election win now, before Abe’s support goes back on the decline, is also calculated to quiet the challengers within his own party and pave the way for a third term in office. This seemingly low risk, high payoff gamble was irresistible and by mid-September it was clear an October general election was imminent.

Then suddenly it appeared that Abe had been outsmarted. Just days before Abe dissolved the parliament on 28 September, Koike announced the formation of …continue reading


FILP bonds may weigh heavily on KKR portfolio for many years


The just-published first quarter report of the Federation of National Public Service Personnel Mutual Aid Association, usually known by its Japanese acronym KKR, shows it to be making very slow progress in re-balancing its portfolio away from bonds — and FILP bonds at that.

As previously reported (see archive 18 May 2017 Heavy lifting on re-allocation looms for public service pension), the retirement fund has undertaken to its regulator, now the Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare, that it will move its asset allocation into line with that of the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF).

Achieving this within a decade looks impossible unless the Ministry of Finance forgoes its power to have civil service retirement schemes make duty investments in, and then hold to maturity, obligations issued by the Fiscal Investment & Loan Program. Known as zaito bonds these are pay for so-called ‘second budget’ projects.

It took GPIF 11 years to run down its FILP holdings from a peak of 30,653.8 billion yen in March 2006 to 1,647.2bn yen in March 2017. As the Fund could not sell its zaito bonds it had to wait until paper matured and it could invest elsewhere the proceeds. It looks as though KKR is taking the same route.

However, GPIF’s FILP investments never accounted for 40%+ of its total portfolio as they do at KKR. Text continues below tables

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New apartment prices in greater Tokyo increase for 6th month in a row

According to the Real Estate Economic Institute, 2,978 brand new apartments were released for sale across greater Tokyo in September, up 41.7% from the previous month but down 13.0% from last year. Back in 2013, as many as 5,970 new apartments were released for sale in the month of September.

The average sale price was 58,240,000 Yen, up 0.5% from the previous month and up 4.4% from last year. The average price per square meter was 846,000 Yen, down 2.9% from the previous month but up 7.6% from last year. This is the sixth month in a row to record a year-on-year increase.

The contract ratio across greater Tokyo was 64.9%, down 3.3 points from the previous month and down 7.1 points from last year. This is below the 70.0% line said to indicate healthy market conditions.

A total of 340 apartments in 20 high-rise buildings (over 20 storeys) were offered for sale, with a contract ratio of 60.6%, down 19.7 points from last year.

Tokyo metropolitan area

In the Tokyo metropolitan area, 1,167 new apartments were offered for sale, up 9.3% from the previous month but down 8.3% from last year. The average sale price was 73,640,000 Yen, up 6.0% from the previous month and up 7.5% from last year. The average price per square meter was 1,102,000 Yen, down 0.5% from the previous month but up 11.8% from last year. This is the 3rd month in a row to see average sale prices above 1,100,000 Yen/sqm.

The contract ratio was 65.9%.

The Institute is expecting 3,500 new apartments to be released for sale in October (2016 = 2,903; 2015 = 3,125; 2014 = 3,125; 2013 = 3,506).

Source: The Real Estate Economic Institute, October 16, 2017.

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