After a rocky 2014, the Japanese economy experienced some signs of a revival in early 2015. Investors cheered as the Nikkei 225 index breached the 20,000 mark in April – a level not seen in 15 years.
Looking back at the year ended April, the Topix TR returned 19.2%, which is well above the 2.9% rise by the FTSE World Asia Pacific ex Japan TR index in US dollar terms.
Citywire Asia analysed the performance of 113 Japanese equity managers to discover that less than one-third, or 34 managers, delivered returns above those of the benchmark index in the past year.
Here we highlight the top five Japanese equity managers who have outperformed their peers.
To be eligible in this list, managers must have funds registered for sale in Luxembourg or Ireland or in at least one Asian country.6.
5. Chris Taylor, Neptune Investment Management
One year return (April 2014-April 2015): 23.2%
Following a 15-year stint at Fuji Investment Management, Taylor joined Neptune as head of research in June 2004. He became responsible for Neptune Japan Opportunities fund in May 2005, and is aided by assistant manager, George Boyd-Bowman.
As of end March 2015, Taylor allocated more than half of his portfolio to stocks in the industrials (32.1%) and materials (21.7%) sectors.
Among his top ten holdings were Toyota Motor (4.7%), Fanuc (3.4%), and Nippon Paint (3.2%).
4. Dean Cashman, Eastspring Investments
One year return (April 2014-April 2015): 25.7%
Taking the fourth spot is Citywire AA-rated Dean Cashman, who has been managing both the M&G Japan A Inc and Eastspring Investments – Japan Dynamic D since 2006.
As of end March, the M&G Japan fund, which Cashman manages with Max Godwin, had $312.4 million in assets, with the bulk of its holdings in financials (25.6%) and consumer discretionary (25.6%).
At more than double the assets of the former, Eastspring Investments – Japan Dynamic D had assets under management of $733.8 million as at the end of March. Its key holdings included Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (6.4%), Ricoh Company (5.5%) and Honda Motor (5.2%).
*Performance figure is an average of Cashman's two funds.
3. Rupert Kimber, Tiburon Partners
One year return (April 2014-April 2015): 28.9%
Coming in third place is Rupert Kimber, a partner at Tiburon Partners. He has also previously worked at Belvedere Investment Partners, Polar Capital, KBC Financial Products and Cazenove.
In October 2009, he introduced Tiburon Taiko, which as of end April, has delivered total returns of 28.9% over one year and 84.6% on a three year basis. The largest allocation in Kimber’s portfolio was towards electric appliances (15.2%) and transport equipment (11.6%) equities at the end of April.
2. Nicholas Weindling & Shoichi Mizusawa, JPMAM
One year return (April 2014-April 2015): 34.7%
In joint-second are Citywire AA-rated co-managers, Nicholas Weindling and Shoichi Mizusawa. Mizusawa’s tenure with the JP Morgan Asset Management dates back to 1993, where he started as a marketing manager.
He is currently head of the JF Japan team of the Pacific Regional Group in Tokyo. Weindling joined the firm in 2006, and is part of Mizusawa’s team.
Between April 2014 and April 2015, the pair steered the JPMorgan Japan (Yen) fund to produce total returns of 34.7%, almost twice that of the average manager in the sector, who returned 18%.
Their main stock selections at the end of February included Keyence Corporation (5.6% of the portfolio), M3 Inc (3.9%) and Fuji Heavy Industries (3.8%).
1. Richard Aston, Coupland Cardiff AM
One year return (April 2014-April 2015): 43.2%
Leading the pack is veteran Aston, who joined Coupland Cardiff in 2011. Prior to joining the boutique house, he was managing director with the Japanese equities team at JP Morgan Asset Management.
Aston launched the CC Japan Income and Growth fund in January 2013; by March 2015, the fund had amassed $307 million in assets. The top selections in his portfolio included Toyota Motor (5.4%), Kaken Pharmaceutical (4.3%), and Daito Trust (4.1%).