News & Updates
FY2020 JETRO Survey on Business Conditions for Japanese Companies Operating Overseas(North America)
Mar 26, 2021
Earnings at Japanese companies deteriorated significantly due to the spread of Covid-19.
The U.S. visa issuance restrictions wider effects.
JETRO has conducted a survey on the state of Japanese manufacturers and non-manufactures operating in the U.S. and Canada. The results are summarized below, with corresponding page numbers from the attachment included.
|Method||Distribution of a questionnaire|
|Dates||September 10-30, 2020|
|Scope||Japanese manufacturers and non-manufactures operating in the U.S. and Canada
1,108 responses (961 in the U.S., 147 in Canada) received from 1,757 surveys sent (1,580 in the U.S., 177 in Canada, response rate: 63.1%)
- Earnings at Japanese companies deteriorated significantly due to the spread of Covid-19. Both in the U.S. and Canada, only around 50% of companies expect to generate a profit for 2020, a drastic decrease from the prior year; still, the decline was not as steep as the one seen in 2009, immediately after the financial crisis. The main cause was lower local sales. With restrictions on activities hampering companies’ abilities to develop new customers, they are tapping into virtual exhibitions, e-commerce and other digital tools for marketing and sales.
- At the same time, the effects of the spread of Covid-19 on supply chains, which had been a concern, turned out to be limited, and companies that were changing procurement sources accounted for just around 10% each in the two countries. As a reason for such changing, more companies cited additional tariffs and higher costs than those citing the spread of Covid-19.
- Regarding the U.S. visa issuance restrictions (one of the biggest concerns for Japanese companies operating in the U.S.), close to 50% of Japanese companies have been affected, the survey found. Given that this ratio was 35% in the June 2020 survey (respondents: 958 companies), the latest survey shows that wider effects have been felt.
Note 1: The totals in the surveys in this report may not be 100 because the numbers are rounded off to the first decimal point.
Note 2: The rates are calculated based on the numbers of answers collected.
1. Operating Profit Forecast
- Just 47% of Japanese companies in the U.S. anticipated a profit for 2020, down 19 points from 66% the prior year. The last time this proportion was below 50% in the U.S. was in 2009 (immediately after the financial crisis: 36%). The percentage was low in Canada as well, with only 54% expecting a profit, which represented a decline of 23 points from 77% the prior year. The last time this proportion was below 60% in Canada was in 2009 (52%) [page 15 (U.S.), page 61 (Canada)].
- A total of 59% of companies in the U.S. see operating profit deteriorating in the year, an increase of 23 points from 36% the prior year. In particular, the ratio of deterioration was substantially high in the Travel/Amusement (94%) and Automobiles etc. (88%) industries. In Canada, 54% of companies see operating profit deterioration, an increase of 20 points from 34% the prior year. In terms of year-on-year change in operating profit, about 30% reported “down 10-50%” in both the U.S. and Canada. The Diffusion Index for business sentiment was -42 in the U.S. and -40 in Canada, hitting all-time lows in both countries [pages 17-19 (U.S.), pages 63-64 (Canada)].
- On the other hand, in both countries, only around 30% of companies in the Food and Information and Communications industries anticipated year-on-year deterioration, with 20-40% of them even seeing improvement, indicating that different industries had different outlooks [page 19 (U.S.), page 64 (Canada)].
2. Future Business Plans
- Companies considering business “expansion” in the next year or two totaled just 39% in the U.S. and 30% in Canada, a record low for each country. Nonetheless, in the U.S., more than half of the companies in Food (68%) and Chemical/Medicines (54%) said they were considering “expansion” [page 27 (U.S.), page 72 (Canada)].
- Companies planning to change their supply chains (procurement sources, production sites and sales markets) were only about 10% each in the U.S. and Canada. Asked about the reason for changing procurement sources, a majority of the respondents cited “changes in trade environment”; among companies in the U.S., many cited changing procurement sources from China to the U.S. or the ASEAN region. With respect to changes in production sites, common plans included changing from the U.S. to Mexico, Japan or elsewhere, with many citing rising costs and difficulty in securing personnel in the U.S. [pages 29-36 (U.S.), pages 73-75 (Canada)].
3. Effects of the Spread of Covid-19 and State of Business Reassessment
- Asked about the negative effects of the spread of Covid-19 on their operating profits, 90% in the U.S. and 70% in Canada cited “Sales decrease in local markets.” [page 43 (U.S.), page 79 (Canada)].
- Asked about the expected timing of business returning to normal, those answering the first half or the second half of 2021 each accounted for around 30% in both countries. With respect to the demand environment after normalization, just under 50% in both countries anticipated it to “return to that before the spread of COVID-19”, while a third of the respondents expected “a slight decline.” Meanwhile, about 10% in each country anticipated an increase in demand, with the rates particularly high in the U.S. in the Precision Machines/Medical Equipment (36%) and Rubber/Ceramic/Stone and Clay Products (24%) industries [page 43 (U.S.), page 79 (Canada)].
- Asked about ways to review business strategies and business models in response to the spread of Covid-19, about 80% in each country cited expansion of the utilization of work from home and teleworking, followed by utilizing virtual exhibitions and online business meetings (40-50%) and streamlining by staff reduction (just under 40%) [page 44 (U.S.), page 80 (Canada)].
(Note) Up to 3 answers allowed per respondent. Only the most common items listed.
4. Management Challenges
- Asked about management challenges, sales and marketing challenges were cited often, with over 40% of respondents in both the U.S. and Canada answering “Slow development of new customers” and “Decrease of orders from business partners.” The restrictions on business travel and meetings, stay-at-home guidelines and operation restrictions amid the spread of Covid-19 apparently dealt a blow. In the U.S., these were followed by “Increase in wages of employees” and “Quality of employees” and other employment and labor challenges (nearly 40%) [page 45 (U.S.), page 81 (Canada)].
- As countermeasures for management challenges, in the U.S., development of high added-value products and other ways to “Differentiation from competing products” and expansion of e-commerce and other steps toward the “Review and strengthening of sales methods” were each cited by over 40% of respondents. In Canada, “Review and strengthening of sales method” and “Enhancing internal communication” were the top answers [page 46 (U.S.), page 82 (Canada)].
(Note) This chart lists only the top items.
(Note) This chart lists only the top items
- In response to the spread of Covid-19, the Trump administration restricted issuances of certain visas. Visas issuance suspension, delay and denial have had “Some impact” on 35% of Japanese companies in the U.S. while “A serious impact” on about 10%. The percentage of companies being affected is up 10.2 points from the prior year’s survey (35.1%) and the Quick Survey Concerning Countermeasures for the Spread of Covid-19 (35.1%) conducted in June 2020. Asked about specific issues, more than 60% stated “We cannot conduct staff reshuffling or reassignment.” highlighting the difficulty in responding to this challenge. Among the types of visas being affected, about 60% answered L-1 Visa (Intra-company Transferee) and about 30% said E-2 Visa (Treaty Investor) [page 47].
5. How Changes in Trade Environment Affect Earnings
- Regarding how changes in trade environment are affecting their 2020 earnings, 38% in the U.S. answered “Have no impact.” Meanwhile, 36% answered “Have a negative impact overall,” and when combined with the 6% that answered “Have positive and negative impacts to the same degree,” 42% were affected negatively. In Canada, 50% answered “Have no impact” and 23% said “Do not know,” while just 20% answered “Have a negative impact overall” [page 50 (U.S.), page 83 (Canada)].
- Asked about specific policies having negative effects, 57% in the U.S. cited “Additional tariffs imposed on Chinese products based on Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act”, while 33% in Canada said “Additional tariffs of the U.S. imposed on steel and aluminum” [page 51 (U.S.), page 84 (Canada)].
- As for countermeasures for changes in trade environment, common answers both in the U.S. and Canada were “Strengthening of the system for gathering information” and “Effort at absorbing cost by improving productivity/efficiency” [page 52 (U.S.), page 85 (Canada)].
Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Americas Division, Overseas Department
(Representatives: Mari Fujii, Takashi Nakamizo, Hiroyuki Kaino and Mako Otsuka)