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Japan Post to make Tokyo debut after US$11.5b IPO

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State-owned Japan Post Holdings and its banking and insurance units are scheduled to make their long-awaited market debut on Wednesday after the year's biggest share sale.

[TOKYO] State-owned Japan Post Holdings and its banking and insurance units are scheduled to make their long-awaited market debut on Wednesday after the year's biggest share sale.

Shares in the vast company, along with Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance, start trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange at 9.00am (0000 GMT) after an initial public offering that topped US$11.5 billion.

It is the biggest stock offering globally since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's record US$25 billion IPO last year.

The bulk of proceeds from selling shares in the government-owned behemoth, which has about 24,000 offices nationwide, are earmarked for reconstruction efforts after Japan's 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

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Tokyo is expected to sell off more of the company down the road to help pay for spiralling social-welfare costs in Japan's biggest privatisation since Nippon Telephone & Telegraph's 1987 IPO.

The triple-listing brings with it hopes that privatising what is effectively the world's largest bank will help draw more investment in Japanese firms, and give a lift to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's faltering "Abenomics" growth blitz.

Analysts said shareholder pressure would help force Japan Post to speed up its decision making and control costs.

It could also send a wider message that Japan Inc's notoriously rigid corporate culture is being shaken up.

The company's mail delivery unit, a big source of national pride in Japan, will remain untouched largely due to social and political pressure to maintain the status quo, including the presence of post offices across the nation even in the most remote villages.

These offices also offer services for cash deposits and insurance, and a local branch where many of Japan's legions of retirees withdraw their pension payments.

That system, however, has long drawn criticism both inside and outside Japan.

Financial institutions, carrier services and foreign governments argued that the public body was operating in sectors where it competed directly with private businesses.

The government of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi split the company into four units in 2007, to handle deliveries, savings, insurance and counter services at each of its post offices.

The government retained full ownership of the group at first, with plans for the bank and insurance units to go fully private by 2017.

The privatisation project was stalled after the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost power, but was revived after the party returned to power in late 2012.

AFP

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