Japan Rebuilds Economic Walls

With firms ripe for takeover, gov't moves to make foreign investment tougher
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2008 1:30 PM CDT
Japan Rebuilds Economic Walls
A pedestrian uses his mobile phone beside an electronic stock market board in Tokyo, Friday, March 7, 2008.    (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)

Once, Japan was one of the world’s most closed economies, with near-impregnable barriers guarding against foreign investors. It's moving back in that direction, the Wall Street Journal reports. Companies are buying stakes in each other to complicate international takeover bids, and resurrecting the “poison pill” strategy America pioneered in the 1980s. The government, meanwhile, is barring foreign investment in key industries.

The fortress mentality had eased off in the 1990s, allowing foreigners to buy into iconic companies like Nissan—but it’s returning, because many companies are juicy takeover targets. Stocks are trading at about 15 times earnings, down from 50 five years ago. “You can't overstate the paranoia about takeovers here,” said one researcher. “It's an implication that they've done a poor job creating value.” (More Japan stories.)

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