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Nobel boost: Battery stocks surge following Yoshino win

Asahi Kasei and Tanaka Chemical ride laureate's coattails to gains

Lithium-ion batteries, which are more compact and powerful than other types of rechargeable batteries, are used in electric vehicles and smartphones.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese investors celebrated Akira Yoshino's Nobel Prize win by purchasing stocks associated with the lithium-ion battery the researcher helped develop.

Asahi Kasei, the chemical manufacturer where Yoshino serves as an honorary fellow, jumped 4% at one point in early trading before closing 1.8% higher to 1,125 yen. Tanaka Chemical gained 5.7% at the end of the day to 873 yen, climbing as much as 11% during the session.

Several Japanese companies hold outsized shares in key components of lithium-ion batteries. Asahi Kasei commands the top global share for separators, a feature fine-tuned by Yoshino that prevents rechargeable battery electrodes from short-circuiting. Tanaka Chemical is known for making cathode material.

Asahi Kasei's transaction volume swelled 4.9 times to 21.6 billion yen ($201 million). Sumitomo Chemical, which is strong in separators for electric vehicle batteries, saw its transaction volume grow roughly 20%.

Yoshino was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry along with American researchers John B. Goodenough and M. Stanley Whittingham for their work in developing the lithium-ion battery. The innovation paved the way for a host of modern conveniences, namely smartphones.

However, the buying spree in the morning was followed by a round of profit-taking. "Expectations that the lithium-ion market would grow were already priced in before the [Nobel Prize] win," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.

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