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New Tokyo Stock Exchange chief is ESG supporter but wary of PSPC boom

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TOKYO – The Tokyo Stock Exchange will push Japanese companies to adopt stronger governance rules through an ambitious reorganization in a “big step to become the stock exchange of choice for global investors,” TSE’s new chief told Nikkei in an interview.

Hiromi Yamaji, who took the presidency on April 1, faces a particularly competitive environment as stock exchanges around the world seek investors. As environmental, social and governance, or ESG, issues become key investment standards, the TSE will prompt companies to step up their efforts based on their market classification.

“As countries compete to raise awareness of ESG among businesses, Japan cannot be left out,” Yamaji said.

The reorganization slated for April next year will reorganize the TSE into three sections, including a top Prime Market. Companies listed on the Prime market will have to meet more stringent disclosure standards, such as those relating to climate change risks.

The idea is to provide clarity by assigning companies to the market that matches their market capitalization. Stricter governance standards will encourage efforts that will increase the value of the company.

Yamaji is also keen to cultivate Japanese individual investors. “It is also important to broaden the investor base in the country,” said the new president. To this end, the TSE will increase the use of the Internet to familiarize people with investing.

As for TSE’s goal of launching 100 initial public offerings, “it is important to improve the quality [of IPOs] while achieving this goal stably, ”Yamaji said.

Wall Street has seen a boom in listings by Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, or SPACs, which raise cash through an initial public offering before finding a promising private company to partner with. PSPCs raised tens of billions of dollars in 2021, with the involvement of the rich and famous, such as Jay-Z and Bill Ackman.

But Yamaji issued a cautious tone about allowing SPAC listings on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The listing of PSPCs “should be given careful consideration based on recent market conditions,” Yamaji said, adding that “investor protection will be a challenge.”

The TSE considered allowing PSPCs to be listed in 2008, but the plan was scrapped due to lukewarm demand, according to Yamaji.

But other Asian exchanges jump into the group’s wagon. The Singapore Stock Exchange plans to open the exchange to PSPCs as early as the middle of the year. The Hong Kong and Indonesian markets are also considering the move in hopes of attracting promising Asian startups.

Yamaji, former chairman of the Osaka Stock Exchange, steps into his new role as the stock market tries to regain investor confidence. The stock exchange suffered a system crash that halted trading for all day on October 1 of last year, resulting in the resignation of then-president Koichiro Miyahara.

“Restoring confidence and ensuring stable operations in the market are major issues at the moment,” said Yamaji.

Last month, the TSE released the final report of the system problem. Yamaji said he would enlist the help of brokerage firms and other partners to continue training employees to “prevent a recurrence.”



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