Selling Mitsubishi UFJ Financial In the Short-Term; Holding for the Long-Term

09/26/2014 5:45 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

The weakening yen hasn't been too kind to shares of non-export companies, but the long-term plan for this Japanese car company is the reason MoneyShow's Jim Jubak is selling his shares in the short-term, but hanging onto them in the long-term, as of today, September 26.

The resumed tumble in the yen has been good for shares of Japanese exporters, even as the Japanese domestic economy has faltered. The New York traded ADRs of Toyota Motor (TM) have climbed 4.2% from August 22 through the close on September 24.

A weakening yen hasn't been nearly as kind to shares of non-export companies. The ADRs of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU) are down 1.3% in that same period.

And I think this divergence is likely to continue for a while. The Japanese economy, which staged an initial recovery after the implementation of Abenomics, faltered with the March increase in the national sales tax. It now looks like the Bank of Japan will have to weaken the yen further if the Abe government is to hope to restore growth and push inflation higher.

Which is why I'm holding only my Jubak's Picks portfolio position in Toyota Motor but selling out of my Jubak's Picks portfolio position in Mitsubishi UFJ Financial. I'm not actually getting rid of my position in Mitsubishi UFJ Financial; instead, I'll be moving it to my long-term Jubak Picks 50 portfolio sometime in the first week of October.

Let me explain my thinking on why holding onto Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is a good idea, even though I favor selling for investors with shorter (12 to 18 month) time horizons.

Mitsubishi is the strongest of the big three Japanese banks in terms of its overseas operations and network. Some of that dates back to the bank's roots in the Bank of Tokyo. Some is a result of acquisitions: Union Bank of California, a hunk of Morgan Stanley, and Thailand's Bank of Ayudhya.

The 2013 acquisition of Bank of Ayudhya won't be the last acquisition that Mitsubishi makes in Asia outside of Japan but it does show you why Mitsubishi and other Japanese banks are expanding into the region. The Thai economy is forecast to growth three times faster than the Japanese economy in 2014. The net interest margin at Bank of Ayudhya was 4.2% in 2013. Japan's three largest banks have an average net interest margin of just 0.93%. (In 2013, Mitsubishi also acquired a stake in the Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, known as VietinBank.)

Nor is the acquisition strategy limited to Asia. Also in 2013, Mitsubishi agreed to buy US hedge fund administrator Butterfield Fulcrum Group and it acquired $3.7 billion in US real estate loans from Deutsche Bank through Union Bank of California.

The acquisition strategy makes sense if you think of it as a version of the yen carry trade. What Mitsubishi is buying are ways to put the yen it can raise so very cheaply in Japan at work in countries with higher interest rates than Japan.
In the long-term, this is a very attractive strategy.

Unfortunately, in the short-term, a cheap yen makes acquisitions for this Japanese bank more expensive and-especially with other Japanese banks bidding for overseas assets-a weak yen does raise the possibility of overpaying for these assets.

That's one reason I don't want to hold Mitsubishi in a relatively short-term portfolio such as Jubak's Picks. The other is, as I've been harping on lately, I'd like to raise some cash from stocks with what seem to be modest near-term upside in case the earnings season that starts in two weeks gives me buying opportunities in stocks with higher earnings and revenue growth rates.

I'm selling Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group out of Jubak's Picks with a 3.4% loss since I added it to the portfolio on March 26, 2013.

Full disclosure: I don't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I managed, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund shut its doors at the end of May and my personal portfolio is now in cash. (Please don't read any opinion of the market into that cash position. It's taking longer than I anticipated to wind up the asset management company behind the fund.) I anticipate putting those funds to work in the market over the next few months and when I do I'll disclose my positions here.

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