Rakuten is not just the top shopping website in Japan. These days the company is doing some serious shopping of its own as it turns the strong yen — usually seen as a huge negative for Japanese companies — into a plus.
The online shopping mall operator has bought several overseas businesses in the last year and is not the only Japanese company on an acquisition spree. Businesses from pharmaceutical companies to toy makers have been emboldened by the increased purchasing power that the rising yen gives them.
A strong yen has long been characterized as potentially fatal for Japan Inc. by making the country’s cars, consumer electronics and other goods more expensive abroad, eating into the earnings of giant exporters like Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co.
But for a service company such as Rakuten Inc., the yen at post World War II highs is a boon it hopes will help it catch up to giants in the global e-commerce hierarchy such Amazon and eBay. The yen is up nearly 8 percent against the U.S. dollar over the past year.