Steven Towns is the author of Investing in Japan: There is no stock market as undervalued and as misunderstood as Japan (March 2012). Investing in Japan, both a timely and timeless book, fills the void of English-language information about Japanese stocks, and contrary to popular opinion, the author explains that Japan’s future is far from bleak, and the vast universe of undervalued Japanese stocks represents significant opportunity. Click here for more information.
In January 2015, Steven launched the Uguisu Value newsletter focused on micro and small cap Japanese stocks offering asymmetrical risk (minimal downside risk with solid MOS) / reward (2x+ upside) profiles. Uguisu Value featured one thoroughly researched equity write-up per quarterly issue. The newsletter ended following its 6th issue published in summer 2016. See above link for details.
See Steven’s latest thoughts on Twitter: Active Investing on Twitter
Publicity and select investments / shareowner activism:
- “Finding Value In Japanese Stocks” interview by Safety in Value on Seeking Alpha, July 2015 (link)
- “Japanese Stocks: A Fantastic Opportunity Waiting for International Value Investors,” on Net Net Hunter, Feb. 2015 (link)
- Feature story in the American Chamber of Commerce Japan’s November 2012 Journal: Japanese stocks: savor the low-hanging fruit
- ValueWalk interview, April 2012 (link)
- Successful investor activism: Internet Initiative Japan (IIJI) (JP: 3774). During IIJ’s fiscal year-ended March 31, 2011 (Steven’s activism began around the start of the fiscal), he urged the board to consider unlocking shareholder value via a number of means and questioned operational efficiency, as well as corresponded directly with founding chairman and president Suzuki. IIJ raised its dividend 3 times to ¥2,750/share (aggregate increase of 37.5%). In less than 2 1/2 years IIJ’s dividend grew by nearly 67% to ¥3,250/share. The company is also more focused on the bottom-line in all segments and is more pro-actively seeking scalable growth opportunities. It also split its shares in 2012, one of the key proposals submitted and discussed: IIJ previously traded at US$2,000(+) per share in Tokyo. IIJ’s share price would go on to more than quadruple by 2013 and remains up more than double since 2010. This level of success in Japan is unprecedented, not to mention that it was achieved independently.
- In 2008, Steven was interviewed by The Economist, and mentioned in, “Business in Japan: Criss-cross capitalism,” in regards to cross-shareholding. More recently, in May 2012, Steven spoke with the head of Asian market coverage with Barron’s and is mentioned discussing the Nikkei’s reversal, bright spots among domestic demand stocks, and Nintendo’s valuation.
- Another activist focus of Steven’s was General Electric (GE). More than “unlocking” value, GE is/was a more immediate case involving preservation of both shareowner value and shareowner rights. As of February 2012, Steven had an outstanding shareowner proposal to GE that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has already ruled GE may not omit. The SEC agreed with Steven about the importance of dividends for shareowners calling them “extremely important” for most shareowners and saying they “involve significant economic and policy considerations.” However, it is customary that companies seek “no-action” approval from the SEC (and even try to sue shareowners) to avoid having to print proponents’ proposals in their proxy statements and thus prevent resolution either via proxy vote or presentation and vote at an Annual Meeting. GE was relentless in its repeated unfounded no-action requests and ultimately received last-minute SEC no-action approval. Steven was also mentioned in a February 2011 Fortune article, “Grading Jeff Immelt.”
- Steven was a committee member of the not-for-profit United States Proxy Exchange (USPX), and supported its efforts to facilitate shareowner rights. In September/October 2010, he participated in a letter writing campaign that resulted in Symantec Corporation reversing its decision to host future virtual-only annual shareowner meetings; instead it will offer a hybrid (live or in-person, and virtual) meeting. Most recently in spring 2011, Steven coauthored the USPX draft guidelines for voting on say-on-pay (click here if preceding link is down). The USPX has ceased activities — visit the excellent CorpGov.net for current developments and a rich archive of information.
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