TOKYO -- Japanese companies are snapping up foreign businesses at a record pace, as management teams look for ways to unlock shareholder value and put their ample reserves of cash to better use.
Businesses in Japan made 324 foreign acquisitions worth a total of 5.6 trillion yen ($45.6 billion) from January through June, according to financial information provider Thomson Reuters. That was a 60% jump from the year-earlier period and a record high for the first six months of any year.
The average value of the acquisitions was a record 17 billion yen. Despite the yen having fallen to around 120 to the dollar, the appetite for takeovers was huge, leading to some deals exceeding 500 billion yen. The largest was Tokio Marine Holdings' 940 billion yen buyout of HCC Insurance Holdings of the U.S., which the Japanese insurer announced June 10. The purchase was largest-ever foreign takeover by a Japanese financial institution.
Japan Post, the state-owned mail delivery service, bought Australian logistics company Toll Holdings for around 630 billion yen in a deal completed in May.
Industrial companies in Japan also are moving to buy Asian, European and U.S. companies. Kintetsu World Express paid around 150 billion yen to acquire APL Logistics of Singapore to expand its global distribution network. APL has a strong warehouse and trucking business in North America.
Optical equipment maker Canon made Sweden's Axis, the world's largest manufacturer of surveillance cameras, a subsidiary at a cost of nearly 300 billion yen, its largest acquisition ever. This instantly vaulted Canon to the top of the network camera market.