To some, Abenomics has gone horribly stale. Others are convinced it's still deliciously fresh. The answer, along with a slew of vital hints at investor sentiment, may come this week with the IPO of the country's biggest chain of sushi shops. Like the finest of raw fish, Thursday's market debut of Sushiro Global looks simple enough.
The low cost conveyor belt sushi chain was bought and delisted by one private equity group in 2009, sold to another, Permira, in 2012, and will return to the market in considerably bigger, buzzier shape than it was in eight years ago. Revenues are up about 80% over that period, the branch network has increased by almost a third, and operating profits have nearly tripled.
Underneath that, though, Permira is offering investors a more complex dish. A balance sheet freighted since its 2009 de-listing with some 84 billion yen in intangible assets and 96 billion yen of liabilities. That profile will root out whether four years of pro-market chatter has moved the needle on individuals' attitude towards investment risk and generated any more than a flicker of public optimism on the economy.
On the second question, there are signs of pent up retail appetite for new issues. Japanese IPO numbers are up about 15% on last year since the start of 2017, and analysts see that growth continuing. There's also evidence that investors are prepared to back a company peddling Japanese food to an ageing country with anaemic wage growth.
Last week, Chikaranomoto, which runs a chain of ramen noodle shops, listed its shares and saw their values surge by more than five times when they started trading. A greater test, though, will be whether Sushiro can specifically generate faith in both the leveraged shape that private equity administrations have left it in, and in a management that seems to actively thrive on that leverage.
Foreign investors grumble about a Japanese equity market where companies jealously hoard idle mounds of cash, and 38% of companies have a market capitalisation below their tangible book value. Sushiro's passage through the private equity machine highlights an alternative cuisine. Its IPO will test the Abe era appetite for adventure.