March 11, 2014 5:48 am JST

Rakuten Baseball seen turning 2013 profit as team triumphed

TOKYO -- The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagle's victory in the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball championship appears to have given the team's owner, Rakuten Baseball Inc., its first operating profit in eight years.

     The wholly owned subsidiary of online virtual mall operator Rakuten Inc. is seen logging a nearly 200 million yen ($1.91 million) operating profit for the year ended December, turning around from a more than 900 million yen loss in 2012. Sales apparently rose 30% on the year to a record 12.1 billion yen.

     The company hosted 72 baseball games throughout the year, attracting a record 1.28 million spectators to the stadium. And sales of caps, uniforms and other team-related goods grew sharply. The team's triumph gave a lift to people in the Tohoku region, which is still recovering from the March 2011 earthquake. And their enthusiasm was clearly shown in the earnings results.

     This year, the firm will record as part of sales $20 million as a posting fee for letting pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka go to the New York Yankees. And thanks to the championship season, advertising fees and revenue from broadcasting rights will likely increase as well.

     The company is planning a major renovation of the Miyagi Prefecture baseball stadium, in which it holds the operating rights. But it will likely absorb the related costs with higher income, securing several hundred million yen in profit.