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2009年1月15日 (木)

輸出企業不振 北米市場頼みが裏目に出た

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 15, 2009)

Japan Inc. must wean self off N. American market

輸出企業不振 北米市場頼みが裏目に出た(115日付・読売社説)

The business performance of Japanese exporting companies is deteriorating fast due to the simultaneous slowdown of the global economy triggered by the U.S. financial crisis. The situation can now be described as a debacle.


Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. are expecting operating losses on a consolidated basis for the business year ending in March, though both of them had earlier forecast profits. Sony projects that it will fall into the red for the first time in 14 years, while Toshiba anticipates its first loss in seven years.


Sony's projected loss is due to the fact that sales of liquid crystal display TVs, one of the company's flagship products, and other electronic items have tumbled in the United States and Europe. In addition, the company has suffered from declining export profits due to the yen's sharp appreciation.

Meanwhile, Toshiba has been dealt a blow by the lackluster performance of its semiconductor business.


The slowdown in the manufacturing industry, an engine driving the Japanese economy, was triggered by the downturn in the auto industry.


Toyota Motor Corp. said in late December that it expected a 150 billion yen operating loss for the business year ending in March 2009. It has taken only a year for Toyota to fall into the red since it reported operating profits of more than 2 trillion yen in the last business year.



'Toyota shock' makes waves

The shock wave caused by Toyota's poor performance has spread to a wide range of businesses, including manufacturers of electrical appliances and industrial materials.


Japanese export companies have been enjoying positive earnings for the last few years, benefiting from thriving markets in North America and other regions, and from the weak yen. But drastic changes in the business climate have exposed the fragility of their profit structures.


The total operating profits of listed companies are expected to decline in the business year ending in March for the first time in seven business years. The harsh economic environment is forecast to continue in the next business year.


The slowdown in exports has also cut into Japan's current account surplus. The doldrums in the manufacturing industry will impede the recovery of the nation's economy, which has entered a recession phase.


Exporting companies are working all out to secure profits under the current economic turmoil. Sony will cut 16,000 workers, including 8,000 regular employees, at home and abroad. Toyota and Toshiba have already decided to reduce production drastically after reviewing their manufacturing systems.



Major rethink needed

But cost reductions through restructuring efforts are just stopgap measures. It is an urgent task for exporters to reform their profit structures from a medium- to long-term viewpoint.


First, the exporting companies should end their excessive dependence on North America and strengthen structures to glean earnings in countries around the globe, including newly emerging markets with high growth potential, such as China and India.


It is also important for the firms to pick their business fields carefully and concentrate on priority ones. Sanyo Electric Co. has agreed to be acquired by Panasonic, while Toshiba will take over the hard-disk-drive business of Fujitsu Ltd. Such reorganization within the industry is bound to accelerate. Manufacturing companies must work out aggressive business strategies in response.


Research and development will become even more important to enable firms to make new products that give them a competitive edge in the future. In the past, the Japanese manufacturing industry has used its high-tech capability as leverage to overcome so-called high-yen recessions and the bursting of the IT bubble. We are confident that the industry has the potential to rise to the latest challenge.



(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2009)

20091150209  読売新聞)


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