Wall Street analysts are all too familiar with the herd mentality. When investors start insisting it’s time to buy, buy, buy, it’s usually time to sell, sell, sell. As a result, many an investor has outperformed his or her peers by taking a contrarian view of industry sectors, companies and stocks. But can a contrarian view work just as well when the subject matter is an entire country? That just may be the case when it comes to Japan, which, despite decade-long economic problems, is still the No. 2 economy in the world and a key market for household and personal care manufacturers.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s the world marveled at the Japanese business model. But while all those assembly lines ran smoothly, the financial system was in complete chaos. With a banking system in disarray, a collapsing real estate market and a culture that discouraged competition, Japan sank into a economic malaise that by many measures has lasted more than 14 years.
But could the worst of times be over for Asia’s dominant economy? In this edition of The International Top 30, Happi’s report on the leading household and personal care companies with headquarters outside the U.S., nearly every Japanese company bemoaned that the recently concluded fiscal year was difficult. In addition, many Japanese firms expect the current year to cause problems, with a real recovery in consumer spending not soon expected. Such candid assessments are a welcome change from Japanese companies, and our contrarian readers might take these statements as a signal that real recovery is on the way.
Nearly every Japanese company on our list provides details on cost-saving measures and revamped corporate structures that could put them back on solid ground. Are these programs real reform or just more window-dressing to attract overseas investors? Only time will tell, but from our vantage point, it appears Japanese companies are finally taking the steps necessary to rebuild their businesses to compete in the global marketplace.
Happi has published The International Top 30 for more than a decade, and in every one of those reports, Unilever has been the No. 1 company. The 2003 version is no different. Once again, Unilever is No. 1, with L’Oréal a distant second. Other companies that have cracked the top 10 are Kao, Shiseido, Henkel, Reckitt Benckiser, Wella, Beiersdorf, LVMH and Lion.
We hope you enjoy this edition of The International Top 30. As always, we welcome your comments on our ranking, as well as anything else that appears in Happi.
The International Top 30
|1.||Unilever||United Kingdom||$19.6 billion|
|6.||Reckitt Benckiser||United Kingdom||$4.5 billion|
|11.||Yves Rocher||France||$1.77 billion|
|13.||GlaxoSmithKline||United Kingdom||$1.65 billion|
|16.||Amore Pacific||Korea||$1.0 billion|
|22.||Paterson Zochonis||United Kingdom||$633 million|
|23.||Body Shop||United Kingdom||$580 million|
|25.||Pierre Fabre||France||$534 million|
|27.||YSL Beauté||The Netherlands||$520 million|