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The Bankers Investment Trust PLC

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Three Japanese stocks in a changing market

The Japanese stock market rose significantly in the last few months of 2024. In this article, the manager of The Bankers Investment Trust spotlights the Japanese companies he invests in…

China countryside

Revolutions and boardrooms don’t often go hand-in-hand. However, in Japan over the last ten years a quiet corporate revolution has been taking place – creating an investment opportunity with it.

A decade ago, Japanese company culture was infamous for a lack of transparency and for inefficient corporate practices. This culture meant that it was hard for outside investors to invest into Japan.

In 2015, the first Japanese Corporate Governance Code was created, which required companies to commit to higher standards. Since then, that Code has been revised twice, adding factors like sustainability, and more independent boards. The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has also gradually introduced tougher rules for businesses with shares listed on it.

Encouraged by these reforms, companies have been acting in more “shareholder-friendly” ways. Many more pay out dividends than before and they are now required to take input from owners of their shares.

This behaviour has encouraged investors, like The Bankers Investment Trust, to look more closely at Japan. We believe that many investors are yet to fully understand the pace of change in Japan – and its impact on global markets.

The trust benefits from the expertise of Janus Henderson Investors’ Tokyo-based Japan equities team. Led by Junichi Inoue, the team helps us invest in a focused list of 25-30 Japanese shares. These shares contributed to the trust’s performance in 2023, with the sleeve adding returns of 13.9%.

Examples in our portfolio include world famous businesses like Toyota Motor, Hitachi and Asahi. Regular meetings with the management at each company have helped Junichi and his team learn what is going on “beneath the bonnet”:

  • Toyota Motor was criticised among investors for what it calls its “multi pathway” approach to vehicle types. The market has favoured companies focusing solely on electric vehicles. Instead, Toyota has produced a mix of hybrid, hydrogen and 100% electric vehicles, while still also making traditional combustion engines. This approach means it has solutions for most car-buying markets. In turn, this has meant its market share has stayed strong in most regions, a fact that investors are beginning to appreciate. We have owned Toyota for almost a decade.
  • Asahi, the drinks company, is a clear example of how Japanese businesses are going global. Over the last ten years, the company has increased its presence in outside Japan. This means it doesn’t depend on Japanese customers for its success. It has also kept up with drinks trends, launching a 0.0% version of its best-seller, Asahi Super Dry.
  • Hitachi, an industrial group, has completely transformed how it does business. It previously had a lot of listed subsidiaries in various markets, which it couldn’t really control. It now only owns businesses that it has 100% control over and has sold businesses in markets where it didn’t have significant market share, such as motorbike manufacturing. Combined, this means that the business is spending money more sensibly and has full control over its revenue. It is also paying increasing dividends and buying back shares, where relevant.

To find out more about The Bankers Investment Trust, click here

Discrete performance


Source: Morningstar, as at 31/12/2023

Glossary

Dividend
A variable discretionary payment made by a company to its shareholders.

Equity
A security representing ownership, typically listed on a stock exchange. ‘Equities’ as an asset class means investments in shares, as opposed to, for instance, bonds. To have ‘equity’ in a company means to hold shares in that company and therefore have part ownership.

Portfolio
A grouping of financial assets such as equities, bonds, commodities, properties or cash. Also often called a ‘fund’.

 
Disclaimers

References made to individual securities do not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security, investment strategy or market sector, and should not be assumed to be profitable. Janus Henderson Investors, its affiliated advisor, or its employees, may have a position in the securities mentioned.

Not for onward distribution. Before investing in an investment trust referred to in this document, you should satisfy yourself as to its suitability and the risks involved, you may wish to consult a financial adviser. This is a marketing communication. Please refer to the AIFMD Disclosure document and Annual Report of the AIF before making any final investment decisions. Past performance does not predict future returns. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions and reliefs depend upon an investor’s particular circumstances and may change if those circumstances or the law change. Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice. This document is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment. It does not form part of any contract for the sale or purchase of any investment. We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Issued in the UK by Janus Henderson Investors. Janus Henderson Investors is the name under which investment products and services are provided by Janus Henderson Investors International Limited (reg no. 3594615), Janus Henderson Investors UK Limited (reg. no. 906355), Janus Henderson Fund Management UK Limited (reg. no. 2678531), (each registered in England and Wales at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) and Janus Henderson Investors Europe S.A. (reg no. B22848 at 2 Rue de Bitbourg, L-1273, Luxembourg and regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier).

Janus Henderson is a trademark of Janus Henderson Group plc or one of its subsidiaries. © Janus Henderson Group plc

Important information

Please read the following important information regarding funds related to this article.

Before investing in an investment trust referred to in this document, you should satisfy yourself as to its suitability and the risks involved, you may wish to consult a financial adviser. This is a marketing communication. Please refer to the AIFMD Disclosure document and Annual Report of the AIF before making any final investment decisions.
    Specific risks
  • Higher yielding bonds are issued by companies that may have greater difficulty in repaying their financial obligations. High yield bonds are not traded as frequently as government bonds and therefore may be more difficult to trade in distressed markets.
  • The portfolio allows the manager to use options for efficient portfolio management. Options can be volatile and may result in a capital loss.
  • Global portfolios may include some exposure to Emerging Markets, which tend to be less stable than more established markets. These markets can be affected by local political and economic conditions as well as variances in the reliability of trading systems, buying and selling practices and financial reporting standards.
  • Where the Company invests in assets that are denominated in currencies other than the base currency, the currency exchange rate movements may cause the value of investments to fall as well as rise.
  • This Company is suitable to be used as one component of several within a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested in this Company.
  • Active management techniques that have worked well in normal market conditions could prove ineffective or negative for performance at other times.
  • The Company could lose money if a counterparty with which it trades becomes unwilling or unable to meet its obligations to the Company.
  • Shares can lose value rapidly, and typically involve higher risks than bonds or money market instruments. The value of your investment may fall as a result.
  • The return on your investment is directly related to the prevailing market price of the Company's shares, which will trade at a varying discount (or premium) relative to the value of the underlying assets of the Company. As a result, losses (or gains) may be higher or lower than those of the Company's assets.
  • The Company may use gearing (borrowing to invest) as part of its investment strategy. If the Company utilises its ability to gear, the profits and losses incurred by the Company can be greater than those of a Company that does not use gearing.
  • If the Company seeks to minimise risks (such as exchange rate movements), the measures designed to do so may be ineffective, unavailable or negative for performance.
  • All or part of the Company's management fee is taken from its capital. While this allows more income to be paid, it may also restrict capital growth or even result in capital erosion over time.