Japan toaster startup smartphone foray craters stock price

FILE PHOTO: Balmuda's showroom in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Balmuda's logo is pictured at its showroom in Tokyo, Japan December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

January 11, 2022

By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) – A foray into smartphones by Japan’s Balmuda Inc, best known for its high-end toasters, has cratered its stock price with the firm announcing this week it has halted sales of its poorly received handset.

Shares in Balmuda, which listed on Tokyo’s start-up index in December 2020, fell as much as 10% in Tuesday trading, a day after the firm said it has paused sales due to an unidentified issue regarding compliance with Japan’s technical standards.

Balmuda’s founder and CEO Gen Terao carved out a niche selling premium priced household electronics including fans and coffee machines with a design focus inspired by Apple’s Steve Jobs.

However, his entry into the smartphone market, which is dominated by Cupertino, California-based Apple to the exclusion of Japanese manufacturers, has been met with derision by gadget reviewers and on social media.

(Graphic on, Out of service: https://graphics.reuters.com/BALMUDA-SMARTPHONE/dwvkrkkbypm/chart.png)

Retailing for 104,800 yen ($910) the “Balmuda Phone”, which is manufactured by Kyocera, is more expensive than the iPhone 13 mini, has a plastic case and a processor usually found in budget smartphones.

Balmuda’s shares jumped when the smartphone plans were unveiled in May, in what was intended to begin a new growth phase for the company. The shares have since lost half their value.

“Since the announcement Balmuda has conspicuously lost its way. There is a growing sense of disappointment,” said Katsuyoshi Sakase, an analyst at Aizawa Securities.

A Balmuda spokesperson said the company is paying attention to reaction to the phone and will continue to work to achieve an understanding of its business.  

($1 = 115.3500 yen)

(Reporting by Sam Nussey and Mayu Sakoda; Editing by)