Kentaro Maekawa rises from runner-up to post his first top-three finish. The analyst, 36, joined Nomura in 2007 from the Japan Research Institute, a consulting firm and think tank run by Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in informatics and mathematical science from Kyoto University. Maekawa’s preferred Japanese construction companies include two major Tokyo-based general contractors, Shimizu Corp. and Kajima Corp. He upgraded Shimizu from neutral to buy in December 2013, crediting the company’s completion of several low-margin projects and stable profits going forward from implementation of new public works contracts. By late last month the stock had rocketed 75.1 percent, to ¥842, while the sector gained 16.7 percent. “Maekawa was early — and he was right,” marvels one portfolio manager. As for Kajima, the researcher advised in August that the builder’s new major projects would bolster results, and he elevated the shares from neutral to buy. They had climbed 14.7 percent, to ¥577, by late March, outperforming their peers by 13 percentage points. He believes that a price of ¥580 is justified.