A company that sells for 150 years’ profits must be something pretty special – a mining house that just struck gold perhaps, or a pharmaceuticals company that discovers a 100% certain cure for AIDS. But a dreary old utility? Yes, if it happens to be Japanese, and calls itself Nippon Telegraph & Telephone. NTT’s first day of trading this week turned into a fiasco, because there were no sellers as the price was bid limit up – and the Tokyo Stock Exchange rules require that trading in a stock be suspended if it rises by more than 16%. So that when NTT hit the equivalent of $9,500 a share, trading was suspended to meet the rule that is intended to prevent a disorderly market developing. At that price, the company is valued at about $135,000m, which, as the Daily Telegraph pointed out, is roughly the capitalisation of all the Swiss stock exchanges put together – and the Swiss is the eighth biggest in the world, ahead of both Sydney and Amsterdam. The Telegraph also points out that only 1.65m shares out, and that there are another 6.15m more to come over the next four years, which means that if the stock holds its value, Japanese investors will have to find more than $45,000m to buy the shares – a daunting number even by Japanese standards, and one which makes the $6,000m to $8,000m raised by issues like British Telecom and British Gas look like relative small change. Genuine trading eventually got under way on Tuesday, and the shares soared to 1.6m – $10,525 – apiece.
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