James Coney  

We are redistributing debt

James Coney

James Coney

That is not a redistribution of wealth, it is a redistribution of debt.

Looking to Japan

Anyone who has been to Japan for the first time, and Tokyo in particular, returns home raving about the way it is the future.

Somehow it manages to have that mix of old and new, futuristic bright lights, innovative (and slightly crazy) technology, as well as a proud attachment to its past.

Does it now also hold the future for British companies? Japan may be generally viewed as the slow lane for investment, and decades of low interest rates made it pretty unappealing in terms of returns.

But last month Japanese Smaller Companies were the hottest funds to be in, with the main index third best.

The pound versus the yen is responsible for some of this. But suddenly the well-capitalised balance sheets of Japanese companies, which are generally free of debt, seem attractive too.

A world on lockdown has made the age of share buy-backs and high valuations in western markets seem hugely unappealing.

You can bet companies that took advantage of furlough will be under pressure to haul in bonuses and shareholder payouts until the debt to society is repaid.

Suddenly Japanese companies look like they may have got it right.

Rethinking pensions

Time for a rethink on the money purchase annual allowance – at least temporarily.

Pension recycling is a dirty business, but there are plenty of over 55s out there who faced hard times due to Covid-19 who tapped in to their pension before they wanted.

Many may well get back on their feet and want to replace these lost contributions. The rules need to less restrictive and for the Treasury to adopt a more common sense approach.

James Coney is money editor of The Times and The Sunday Times