Sony, Nissan Prepare to Resume Operations at Factories Idled by Earthquake

Sony Corp. (6758) and Nissan Motor Co. prepared to resume production at some factories in Japan, as manufacturers sought to recover after the nation’s strongest earthquake on record forced them to shut plants.

Sony plans to restart a factory that makes rechargeable batteries in Tochigi prefecture, northern Japan, from March 22, Hiroshi Okubo, a Tokyo-based spokesman, said yesterday. Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, said in a statement it will begin the resumption of operations at six factories tomorrow and some vehicle assembly from March 24.

Scores of Japanese companies have been forced to halt some operations after the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that claimed more than 8,600 lives. Manufacturers are also facing power outages, disruptions in the supply chain and a strong yen that’s undermining the competitiveness of exports.

The battery plant would be Sony’s third factory to resume operations since the magnitude-9 earthquake resulted in the electronics maker halting 10 facilities. The company may restart a DVD-manufacturing plant in Ibaraki prefecture within a week, Okubo said.

Sony, Japan’s largest exporter of consumer electronics, reopened two other plants in the past week as it tried to minimize production shortfalls. Four plants in Miyagi prefecture that make products ranging from Blu-ray discs to semiconductor lasers are still closed. Two plants in Fukushima prefecture for rechargeable batteries are also idled, he said.

Toyota Plants

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), the world’s largest carmaker, and its subsidiaries continued to idle 21 plants as of today. The company planned to keep the factories shut through tomorrow and may make an announcement later today about operations, Keisuke Kirimoto, a spokesman for the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker, said today by phone.

Toyota Boshoku Corp. (3116), an auto-parts maker that supplies Toyota Motor, was ready to restart its plants “anytime” and was waiting for Toyota Motor to resume operations at its auto plants, Rei Nega, a spokesman for the component maker, said today by phone. The supplier’s plants were largely undamaged, he said.

No Power

Nissan’s engine factory in Iwaki, located in the same prefecture where Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers are battling to avert a nuclear meltdown, aren’t getting enough water, electricity and gas to operate, said Toshitake Inoshita, a Nissan spokesman.

The carmaker is considering shipping engines from Tennessee to Japan, spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa said by phone today. The Iwaki plant makes engines for models including Infiniti sedans and Elgrand minivans, he said.

For Sony, a factory in Tagajo City, Miyagi, where more than 6,000 people live in evacuation centers, suffered the most damage among the company’s facilities, Okubo said. The plant, which isn’t receiving any power, is partially covered with rubble and mud, he said.

Like other Japanese businesses, Sony is experiencing blackouts, transportation slowdowns, shortages of materials and suppliers unable to make shipments, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer wrote in an op-ed column published in the Wall Street Journal March 18. The company is beginning to recover from the “profound psychic and physical shock to our bodies and our businesses,” he wrote.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at myasu@bloomberg.net; 萩原ゆき in Tokyo at yhagiwara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

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