Securing his third consecutive No. 1 finish on this roster is Mizuho Securities Group’s Hidekatsu Watanabe, who also rises from No. 3 to finish in second place on the OTC & Small Companies lineup. The only other person to earn a top-three showing for coverage of more than one sector this year is Nomura’s Yoshitaka Nagao, the No. 2 analyst on the Broadcasting and Internet lists. Watanabe, 49, possesses “outstandingly deep knowledge of the domestic health care system and regulations, which results in convincing opinions on the industry outlook and company earnings,” according to a money manager. Monitoring 34 names in this space, the analyst expects the wider group to be a relatively strong performer in terms of earnings momentum this year — and is especially impressed by medical equipment exporters. These providers “have been posting very strong earnings thanks to market share growth in industrialized economies and overall market growth in emerging economies,” despite the lingering risks of yen appreciation, he explains. One of Watanabe’s favorite stocks is Sysmex Corp., which boasts the top global share in the hemostasis, or blood coagulation, business and is still seeing steady market expansion. Plus, the Hyogo-based company’s core earnings driver, its hematology line, has been “almost entirely immune to the recent slump in [capital expenditures] in China and other markets,” says Watanabe. Another preferred name is Aichi-based Asahi Intecc Co., a maker of angioplasty guidewires, that is the No. 2 player in the world and is poised to “take over the top global market share in the near future,” he says.