Upmarket toaster maker Balmuda shares pop 88% in Tokyo debut

TOKYO (Reuters) - Consumer electronics maker Balmuda Inc’s shares popped 88% in their Tokyo stock market debut on Wednesday, in a vote of confidence in Japan’s design credentials after consumers flocked to its high-end toasters and fans.

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Shares hit 3,630 yen in morning trading, valuing the company at $270 million.

Balmuda raised $30 million from an initial public offering (IPO) including overallotment, pricing its shares at 1,930 yen ($18) each - the top of its indicative range.

The startup joins companies like electronic piano maker Roland Corp, which relisted on Wednesday, in a year-end IPO rush following subdued activity earlier in the year.

“The performance of the IPO market has been extremely good,” said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.

A minnow compared with peers such as Panasonic Corp and Toshiba Corp, Balmuda has been able to charge premium prices for stripped-down appliances with modern designs.

Its products carry simple names like “The Gohan” rice cooker priced $400 and “The Toaster” at $225, which uses steam to promise toast that is crispy on the outside but retains moisture inside.

The firm’s success has been seen as a rejoinder to established incumbents, which market watchers often accuse of bloat as the number of functions on new products balloon.

“Balmuda created a whole new market - the high-end toaster. Everyone realised ‘wow, there’s a market here’ and introduced their own products,” said an executive at a larger rival.

The approach contrasts with compatriot Iris Ohyama, which offers back-to-basics electronics at low prices, and could give a sop to retailers lamenting Japanese consumers’ thrifty habits.

Balmuda recorded operating profit of 1 billion yen ($9.6 million) in the year ended December 2019, a decline of 35% from a year earlier, from sales of 10.8 billion yen.

($1 = 104.5200 yen)

Reporting by Sam Nussey and Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Christopher Cushing