Japan foreign assets hit record $3.2 trln as top creditor nation

TOKYO, May 27 (Reuters) - Japan’s net external assets rose to a record 325 trillion yen ($3.2 trillion) as of the end of last year as a weak yen boosted the value of overseas holdings, making the country the world’s biggest creditor nation for 23 years in a row, the finance ministry said.

The value of net assets held by the Japanese government, businesses and individuals exceeded the previous year’s 296 trillion yen, which was a record under comparable data going back to 1996, ministry officials said.

Japan’s net external assets were more than 1.5 times those held by China, the world’s No.2 creditor nation with 207 trillion yen in net assets at the end of 2013, followed by Germany whose assets hit 192 trillion yen, the ministry said.

Japan’s gross external assets rose 20.4 percent to 797 trillion yen, up for a fifth consecutive year, as the weak yen boosted the appraised value of external assets by 105 trillion yen from a year before, the ministry said. Direct investment overseas by Japanese firms such as M&A increased by a record 13 trillion yen to 117 trillion yen.

External debt also grew 29.1 percent to 472 trillion yen, up for a fourth straight year, reflecting increased acquisition by foreign investors of Japanese equities and other assets.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus helped to drive down the yen by some 20 percent last year, boosting sentiment and share prices.

The dollar traded at 105.37 yen at the end of 2013, up 22.1 percent from the year before, and the euro rose 27.6 percent to 145.31 yen, the finance ministry said. ($1 = 101.8750 Japanese Yen) (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Edmund Klamann)