Uniqlo billionaire falls from top of Japan’s rich list amid Covid pandemic

Founder of electronic-sensor maker Keyence Corp Takemitsu Takizaki has taken over Uniqlo billionaire Tadashi Yanai as the richest person in Japan.

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, Mr Takizaki is worth $38.2 billion after his company shares almost doubled amid the pandemic. He is now the ninth richest person in Asia.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has adversely affected Mr Yanani, who now has a net worth of $35.5 billion after losing a fifth of his wealth in 2021.

Mr Takizaki founded his Osaka-based company Keyence in 1974 and is known for high-profit margins in the automation industry. Keyence’s shares have risen 96 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic with a current market value of $167 billion.

The company’s forthcoming inclusion in Japan’s blue-chip equity index ‘Nikkei 225 Stock Average’ has also boosted its value.

Meanwhile, Uniqlo’s shares fell 18 per cent through Monday’s close, indicating the lower purchasing power among the masses amid fresh Covid-19 restrictions and a crippling economy. Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo reported a 12 per cent drop in annual revenues to the tune of $19 billion for the year ended 31 August 2020. Last year, the company was forced to shut half of its stores in China, Forbes reported.

Established in 1984, the company operates on a fast-fashion business model and has a chain of over 3,600 stores spread across Asia, Europe and North America.

In November last year, Mr Yanani in a message featured on the company’s website said, “The spread of Covid-19 has spurred a change in values and encouraged us to scrutinize the way that we live”. “The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed customers’ lifestyles and what they want from their everyday clothing,” it added.

A month later the retail mogul’s worth touched a peak of $41.6 billion following the shopping frenzy for the company’s targeted pandemic-friendly clothes that ranged from loungewear to masks. In February, it toppled clothing giant Zara to become the world’s most valuable retailer.

Uniqlo suffered the worst overseas sales drop to 3. 6 per cent over protests in Hong Kong and the South Korea boycott. The retail faced backlash in the West following allegations of being part of forced labour in China.

The company’s apparels were blocked at the United States border in January due to concerns they violated a ban on cotton products produced in the Xinjiang region of China, where Uyghur Muslims are allegedly facing genocide. The Senate in July passed legislation to ban the import of products from Xinjiang.

Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank Group Corp, is Japan’s third-richest person with a net worth of $26.9 billion.