Shinobu Takeuchi is “a great stock picker,” declares one fund manager. He “helps you make money,” echoes another admirer. In just his second appearance on this roster, the SMBC Nikko Securities researcher claims first-place honors, leaping all the way from runner-up. Takeuchi, 40, actively tracks 26 Japanese chemicals companies and has recently been championing Hitachi Chemical Co., a Tokyo-based supplier of bonding materials and compounds to the semiconductors industry. He upgraded the shares from neutral to outperform in July, after management announced drastic cost-cutting plans that included significant reduction of the company’s domestic workforce. Late last month Hitachi Chemical’s stock was trading at ¥2,554, up 50.8 percent since the analyst turned bullish and ahead of the sector by 7.7 percentage points. Over the same period Japan’s broad market climbed 24.2 percent. Another Takeuchi favorite is Nippon Paint Holdings Co. of Osaka. He has long touted the paint and adhesives producer and highlighted his outperform rating on the shares in December, citing declining materials prices. By late March they had leaped 38.3 percent, to ¥4,425, against the sector’s rise of 12.1 percent. Looking ahead, he recommends that investors buy Tosoh Corp., which makes fertilizer and petrochemicals. The manufacturer boasts a healthy balance sheet, notes Takeuchi, and its executive team is renewing its emphasis on enhancing shareholder value. His target for the stock is ¥760, which implies a 32.6 percent upside to its price late last month. Before joining his current firm in 2010, the researcher covered Japan’s chemicals companies for Daiwa Securities. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University. Takeuchi “is fast becoming our go-to source on the sector,” insists another client.