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Business trends

Top bosses in Japan draw record pay but gap with US widens

Executive compensation grows with spread of performance-linked bonuses

Takeda CEO Christophe Weber's bonus surged 90%, driving a 40% jump in his compensation to 1.7 billion yen for fiscal 2018. (Photo by Wataru Ito)

TOKYO -- Top bosses in Japan are bringing home more money as earnings-linked bonuses climb, yet still make one-ninth of their U.S. counterparts.

Median CEO pay in Japan grew to 160 million yen ($1.48 million) in fiscal 2018, up 10 million yen on the year, according to data from a five-country study by advisory firm Willis Towers Watson. The figure was 1.48 billion yen in the U.S. -- widening the gap with Japan from the year before -- and 740 million yen in Germany.

Total compensation for CEOs at major corporations in Japan increased 3.3% on the year, hitting a record for a second straight year.

Company results are increasingly used as a main factor in determining executive pay in Japan, with the performance-linked portion of compensation expanding 6 percentage points to 58%. But this still fell short of the 90% among U.S. companies and between 72% and 76% for the U.K., Germany and France.

At Takeda Pharmaceutical, President and CEO Christophe Weber's bonus surged 90% to 638 million yen, driving a 40% jump in his compensation to 1.7 billion yen for fiscal 2018.

Tokyo Electron's President and CEO Toshiki Kawai received more than 400 million yen in equity-based compensation in the form of stock options, up a little more than 20%. The chipmaking equipment developer has analyzed pay at other tech companies in Japan and abroad to make its compensation system globally competitive and appropriate, the company said.

Starting last year, Japanese businesses are required to disclose how executive compensation is determined, including the earnings-linked portion of pay. They need to be able to "explain the overall picture of compensation to outside people," said Sumio Morita, director at Willis Towers Watson.

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