(Updates with today’s trading in fifth paragraph.)
Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Japan’s largest drugmaker, is the most popular stock in the first weeks of a tax-free investment program as buyers favor less-volatile shares amid the biggest equity slump among developed markets.
Holders of Nippon Individual Savings Accounts bought more stock in Takeda than any other Japanese company this year through Feb. 7, according to online brokerages SBI Securities Co., Rakuten Securities Inc. and Matsui Securities Co. Investors favored the drugmaker because it’s resilient to market downturns and provides high dividends, SBI said. For every 1 percent swing in the Topix index, Takeda typically moves 0.68 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“Takeda’s shares are relatively stable,” said Nobuyuki Fujimoto, a senior market analyst at SBI, Japan’s largest online broker. “It’s the biggest name in the country’s pharmaceutical industry, which performs steadily even in downturns. It makes sense that individual investors would turn to it.”
Millions of NISA investors have been seeking winning stocks amid a broad selloff in equities since the program began at the start of this year. The Topix has retreated 7.9 percent in 2014 as the yen strengthened, data pointed to a slowdown in China and turmoil erupted in emerging-market currencies after the Federal Reserve began to cut record stimulus.
Takeda has outperformed the benchmark equity gauge, falling 2.2 percent this year. Shares slid 1.4 percent today, compared with a 1.6 percent drop for the Topix. The maker of the Actos diabetes drug has a dividend yield of 3.8 percent, more than twice the 1.7 percent for the broader gauge, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Shares with high dividend payouts are popular among NISA investors,” SBI’s Fujimoto said.
The NISA program started in January and runs through 2023. Individual investors can buy 1 million yen ($9,758) a year in stocks, exchange-traded funds and investment trusts, with a five-year capital gains and dividend tax exemption. Bonds and currencies are not eligible. NISA accounts reached 4 million by the start of the year, the Nikkei newspaper reported in January.
SBI, Rakuten and Matsui didn’t publish data on how many Takeda shares were purchased by NISA investors. Canon Inc. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. were also popular with the buyers, the rankings show.
Takeda, Asia’s largest pharmaceutical company, said this month net income will fall less than previously projected as a weaker yen boosts the value of overseas sales. The more than 230-year-old company last year broke tradition and named an outsider as heir apparent, appointing Christophe Weber, a French national, as chief operating officer and planned successor to the chief executive officer.
“We think our shareholders understand our medium- to long- term growth strategy, including our efforts to develop new drugs and globalize our business,” Takeda spokeswoman Ai Yoshikawa said.
--Editors: Sarah McDonald, Jim Powell