Ben McLannahan

Ben McLannahan covers markets and economics for the FT from Tokyo, and before that he wrote Lex notes from London and Hong Kong. He studied English at Cambridge University and joined the FT in 2007, after stints at the Economist Group and Institutional Investor.

As you’d expect, Indonesia’s new restrictions on raw-mineral exports have gone down badly overseas. US mining majors Newmont and Freeport have decried the sliding scale of increasingly tough taxes, arguing that their original contracts of works to dig up copper and gold should shield them from subsequent law changes.

The Japanese nickel industry is upset, too. Unlike copper, iron ore, lead and zinc, where miners were given a few years to phase out exports, shipments of nickel ore were cut altogether as of 12 January. Continue reading »

Overseas funds have rushed to Japan this year to buy the bull market touched off by prime minister Shinzo Abe. And it seems there has been one big seller quite happy to let them: Beijing.

For the past six years companies from Toyota Motor to SoftBank have noticed a custodial account called OD05 cropping up on their shareholder registers. Sometimes identified as “SSBT OD05 Omnibus China”, and sometimes going by “OD05 Omnibus China Treaty”, it is has been linked in media reports to China Investment Corporation, the giant sovereign wealth fundContinue reading »

The First Philippine Industrial Park, some 50km south of Manila, is already a whopper, accounting for about 3 per cent of the country’s total exports. Which is why it is notable that Sumitomo Corporation, the Japanese trading house that owns 30 per cent of it, wants to make it even bigger. Continue reading »

KDDI and Sumitomo Corp, the dominant shareholders in JCom, Japan’s number one cable-TV company, have been waiting since October to launch an offer to mop up the shares they don’t own. And now, thanks to China, they’ll have to wait a little longer.

On Friday the pair announced that Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) would not after all clear the Y759bn ($8.2bn) deal by early February, as they had earlier indicated it would. Continue reading »

Kawasaki natural gas power station in Kawasaki city, Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo on August 25, 2011. Using LNG gas, the power station started operating April 2008Japan’s thirst for liquefied natural gas is well known. Since the world’s third largest economy shut down almost all of its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster last year, imports of the relatively clean-burning fuel have risen sharply, as utilities have scrambled for shipments anywhere they can find them. Even Belgium – a non-producing nation – showed up in Japan’s official list of LNG suppliers this year, after it re-routed tankers that had already passed customs.

Less well appreciated, however, is Africa’s vital role in meeting that demand. Continue reading »

The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands barely show up on most maps of the world. But the impact of the big row between Japan and China over this tiny chain of islets in the East China Sea could be detected in September’s trade data from Tokyo, published on Monday.

Preliminary numbers from Japan’s finance ministry showed that the headline value of the country’s exports to its biggest trading partner slipped 1.3 per cent from August, on a seasonally-unadjusted basis. Continue reading »

You never get many numbers out of Thorsten Müller-Ötvös. The chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, the luxury marque buried deep within BMW, won’t divulge anything as vulgar as an average sales price, let alone an operating margin or a volume forecast.

Instead, he lets slip the odd morsel like 3,538 (total cars built last year, which was a record) or 4.9, the number of seconds it takes for a Ghost limousine to hit 60 miles an hour, from zero. Continue reading »

After the debt, the deluge? Three months after Japan agreed to waive much of the money owed to it by Myanmar, clearing the way for normalised economic relations after a 25-year lending freeze, Japanese companies are beginning to make up for lost time.

On Tuesday Marubeni, Japan’s fifth largest trading house, said it had been awarded a contract to overhaul a gas-fired power plant it built seven years ago, before tighter Western sanctions took hold. Continue reading »

Now add tax

When Indonesia shook up its minerals tax regime in May, it might have expected a reaction – not least from Japan, which has poured more cash into the archipelago in the past two and a half years than any other non-Asean nation.

Mitsubishi Corp, the nation’s largest trading house by market capitalisation, is one of a number of inward investors unhappy at what it sees as quixotic policy making by the government of southeast Asia’s largest economy. Continue reading »

Kyocera motto

Thank you, Kyocera. At a time when India was crying out for some stable, long-term  investment, the Japanese company has obliged.

India has long been a promising market for Kyocera’s cutting tools. Three years ago the Kyoto-based manufacturer of ceramics, electronics and industrial components set up its first sales subsidiary in Gurgaon, later branching out into Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. Now it is going one better, launching a manufacturing joint venture with CTC, a Kyocera sub-contract manufacturer for the past ten years. Continue reading »

Roughly $45bn down, at least another $45bn to go.

China’s banks have been on a fund-raising binge this year. Agricultural Bank of China ($22bn), Bank of China ($6bn) and Bank of Communications ($4bn) were the biggest of seven $2bn+ deals. But that certainly won’t be the end of it. Continue reading »

Mark Mobius likes to think he knows a bargain when he sees one. That’s why the Singapore-based chairman of Templeton Asset Management has told Bloomberg that he is busily picking stocks in flood-hit Pakistan. Down 9 per cent so far this month, Karachi is the world’s worst performing market by some distance.

This kind of thing is par for the course for Mobius. Whenever the index dips sharply – such as after the assassination the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto three years ago – the seasoned emerging-markets investor pops up with some soothing assurances. Continue reading »

A 4.5 per stake may not seem like much. And neither does the price-tag: 13.7bn rupees ($295m). But Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group’s acquisition of a piece of Mumbai-based Kotak Mahindra Bank, 110 times smaller by assets, is revealing all the same.

Japan’s three megabanks are just too big in Japan. At the core of each is a domestic commercial banking operation covering retail, lending to small-to-medium sized enterprises and corporate banking. Until now, they have diversified not by geographic expansion but by acquisitions and  product line launches mostly within Japan, moving into securities broking, regional banking, asset management and consumer finance (a particularly bad move). Continue reading »

Managers at Tencent Holdings may have been particularly grateful for the Dragon Boat festivities in Hong Kong on Wednesday. What better way to bring an end to a vicious drubbing of the shares than to close the Hong Kong stock exchange for a national holiday? Continue reading »

Let’s hear it for Li & Fung, the best-performing stock this year among 43 in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index. Its 10.4 per cent return since January 1st – against a slide for the benchmark of 9.5 per cent – is not just catch-up, either. Last year it ranked eighth on the leader board, with a 110 per cent return. This is heady stuff for the world’s biggest supply chain specialist, established 104 years ago in China’s export hub of Guangzhou.  Continue reading »