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Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s wealthiest person, is now $2.8 billion richer than he was a week ago, thanks to strong results from his clothing retailer Uniqlo and its parent company Fast Retailing.
On October 9, the Tokyo-listed conglomerate posted record annual profits for the third straight year, a 9.1% increase year over year, driven by strong sales from Uniqlo and its lower-priced line GU. The profit of $2.4 billion, in line with market expectations, boosted share price by 2.6% in one day and another 8% in the past week ending October 17. Yanai, who owns a 44% stake in Fast Retailing, is now worth $31.6 billion, $2.8 billion more than just a week ago.
Yanai is the 27th-richest person in the world, up from 41st place on the Forbes Billionaires list published in March. He ranks ahead of Michael Dell and François Pinault, who are each worth $30.9 billion. Yanai grabbed back the title of Japan’s wealthiest person from Masayoshi Son in April. The two have long traded back and forth but now the gap has widened. Son, founder of the telecom and investment firm SoftBank, is worth $19.1 billion. His net worth has fallen $5 billion since March, in part due to Softbank’s troubled investment in WeWork.
Uniqlo, sometimes referred to as Japan’s Gap, reported revenue of $21.3 billion, making it the world’s third-largest clothing retailer. It is catching up to Swedish giant H&M, which rang up $23.1 billion in sales for the fiscal year ending November 2018. Despite lower sales for Fast Retailing, Yanai’s net worth eclipses that of Stefan Persson, chairman of H&M, which was founded by his father in 1947. Persson is worth $19 billion, and his three children are also billionaires. H&M and Fast Retailing both lag behind Inditex, the world’s largest apparel retailer with $29.6 billion in sales. Inditex’s founder Amancio Ortega boasts a $70.4 billion fortune.
Yanai touted Uniqlo’s upcoming fall/winter collection, which will be made from recycled garments collected from customers. “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the problems caused by clothes that are worn only a few times before being discarded,” he said in an earnings announcement. “In today’s era, every single company and every single individual must commit to think and act in a way that seeks to achieve sustainable growth for society through their operations and their work.”
Fast Retailing noted that its South Korea business has seen a decline in revenue and profit due to the Japanese product boycott. CFO Takeshi Okazaki described the situation as “severe” and expects it to continue. J.P. Morgan Analyst Dairo Murata predicted in a research note that operating profit in South Korea will fall approximately 40%.
Yanai, 70, made headlines in September after saying that he would prefer his successor to be female. He stated that “the job is more suitable for a woman” since they are “persevering, detail-oriented and have an aesthetic sense,” according to Bloomberg Japan. Yanai has two sons who are company directors at Fast Retailing.