By Andrew Ganz
Thursday, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:33 pm
 
Japanese automakers usually boast asset portfolios more diverse than their overseas rivals, but loss-making Mazda's financial decisions regarding its non-core operations have investors more uneasy than normal.

Mazda sold off nearly $2 billion in new stock just a few weeks ago in an effort to built up much-needed capital for its carmaking operations, so it should come as little surprise that the company's recent announcement that it would sponsor an All-Star baseball game in Japan has raised a few eyebrows.

Mazda owns more than a third of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, its hometown professional baseball team, as well as a professional soccer club, a hospital and over $5 billion worth of land, according to Bloomberg.

Because of its reliance on assembly plants in Japan, the automaker has struggled to keep pace against its Japanese and Korean rivals, especially after its relationship with Ford Motor Company was reduced a few years ago. Japan's surging yen has worked against any inkling of profitability in Europe and North America, which will likely lead Mazda to post its biggest loss in more than a decade.

As a result, investors and analysts are taking a close look at the automaker's books.

"This [All-Star game sponsorship] comes at the worst time," said investor Kazuyuki Terao, CIO of Allianz's RCM Japan. "People might think if they don't cut spending on baseball, they may also not worry about other expenses."

Other investors agree.

"Given the situation, Mazda may need to consider selling the Carp and weather the backlash from the team's fanatical fans," said Tachibana Securities strategist Kenichi Hirano.

Mazda is reluctant to shed its assets because of its close connection to Hiroshima, where it was founded nearly 100 years ago as a manufacturing firm.

"We started to run the hospital and investing in baseball, soccer teams to make contributions to the local community," Mazda spokeswoman Kozue Nitta told Bloomberg. "We have many reasons to hold on to each asset."