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Hand-washing keeps Japan's Kao healthy amid pandemic

Soap, sanitizer and solid finances fuel 31st straight year of dividend hikes

Sales of Biore soap have risen as Japanese consumers wash their hands more frequently to fend off coronavirus infection. (Photo by Yu Furukawa)

TOKYO -- Cosmetics maker Kao sees brisk sales of hand soap to hygiene-minded Japanese consumers compensating for slower demand for its mainstay makeup line amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, in good news for investors anticipating higher returns.

"We will absolutely aim to increase our dividend for the 31st straight year," CEO Michitaka Sawada told a general shareholders meeting in late March.

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