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Business

Japanese companies rush to hike dividends

TOKYO -- Seeking to keep shareholders happy and attract more investors, Japanese businesses are offering higher payouts before their stocks go ex-dividend.

     A total of 127 companies raised their dividend projections after releasing April-December results recently, up slightly on the year and the highest number in nine years. Many stocks will go ex-dividend Tuesday for the fiscal year ending this month.

     Keisei Electric Railway said Friday its payout will rise to 6.5 yen (6 cents) a share for fiscal 2015, up 0.5 yen as the company revives a hike after skipping it last fiscal year. A surge in foreign tourists is keeping Keisei's rail and bus services linking Narita Airport and central Tokyo busy. Keisei cited its projection of a record net profit in announcing the dividend increase.

     Japanese companies are bolstering rewards for shareholders under the corporate governance code that took effect last June. Murata Manufacturing, with a policy of raising its payout ratio to 30% by fiscal 2018, hiked its dividend forecast by 10 yen to reach 210 yen a share.

     Businesses also feel pressure to support their share prices. The rush to hike payouts shows "how companies want to attract dividend-minded investors," said Tomoichiro Kubota at Matsui Securities.

     Investors are paying more attention to higher payouts. Toei Animation, which announced a hike to 95 yen a share Tuesday from 30 yen previously, saw its stock soar 7% at one point the next day.

     Companies that do business mostly in Japan are leading the pack of dividend lifters, with a majority of players in the communications industry planning an increase.

(Nikkei)

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