Tokyo Electric Power Co., Toshiba Corp., East Japan Railway Co. and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. are among companies that may be most hurt by the strongest earthquake on record to hit Japan, analysts and investors said.
Tokyo Electric, battling to avoid a meltdown at its Fukushima nuclear plant, faces “severe” rebuilding costs and Toshiba’s nuclear business may see increased scrutiny, said Minoru Matsuno, president of Value Search Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
Japanese engineers in Fukushima, 135 miles (217 kilometers) north of Tokyo, are working to contain the nation’s worst nuclear accident in at least 33 years. Nippon Steel Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Canon Inc. yesterday joined the growing number of companies saying their operations were hurt following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake on March 11 that rocked Japan and triggered tsunamis.
“For Tokyo Electric and anything nuclear-related, it’s going to be pretty bad,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive officer at Myojo Asset Management Japan Co., a Tokyo-based hedge fund advisory firm. “The biggest fear I have is what will happen at the nuclear power plant as it would be a real disaster if the situation deteriorates into another Chernobyl.”
Kan Orders Toshiba
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average tumbled 1.7 percent in the final minutes of Tokyo trading March 11 after the earthquake hit.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered Toshiba President Norio Sasaki to help with efforts to stop radiation leaking from the Fukushima plant, Kyodo News reported yesterday, without citing anyone. Takashi Mizuno, a spokesman at Japan’s largest maker of nuclear reactors, confirmed the meeting, though he couldn’t verify the topics discussed. Toshiba said last week it shut a semiconductor plant in the northern prefecture of Iwate.
East Japan Rail, which lost an estimated 60.2 billion yen ($731 million) from the 2004 Niigata Chuetsu earthquake, has the potential to incur a “major negative impact on earnings” because of the disaster, Hitoshi Hosoya, a Tokyo-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a March 11 report.
East Japan, the nation’s largest train operator, suspended operations of trains in the Tohoku and Tokyo areas, along with its bullet-train operations on the day of the earthquake. As of yesterday, the company, known as JR East, hadn’t resumed operations for trains going to Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita, according to its website.
Fumihisa Nishino, executive officer of JR East’s transport safety department, said the company hasn’t decided on when to resume Shinkansen and regional trains in the Tohoku district.
Shin-Etsu, which makes the silicon wafers needed to produce semiconductors, said last week it stopped operations at its manufacturing complex in Annaka, Gunma prefecture; the Kashima Plant in Kamisu, Ibaraki prefecture; and the Shirakawa Plant in Nishigo Village, Fukushima prefecture. The company will resume operations after safety inspections and measures have been completed, it said on its website.
Disruptions at Shin-Etsu and Sumco Corp. account for about 60 percent of the world’s electronic wafers, will undermine global supply, which may benefit the No. 3 producer, Wacker Chemie AG’s Sitronic, according to Klaus Ringel, an analyst at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux. Shin-Etsu produced most of its wafers in the region that was hit the hardest, according to Cheuvreux.
Sony, Japan’s largest exporter of consumer electronics, said yesterday that it’s halting production at eight factories that make products ranging from Blu-ray discs, magnetic heads and batteries. That’s two more plants than the company said on March 11. The company makes about 10 percent of the world’s laptop batteries, according to Dennis Chan, an analyst at Yuanta Financial Holding Co.
Canon, Nippon Steel, Suzuki Motor, Nippon Paper Group Inc., Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and convenience-store operator Lawson Inc. yesterday disclosed they were affected or were suspending operations, joining the growing number of Japanese companies from Sony to Toyota Motor Corp.
Among energy companies, Cosmo Oil Co.’s 220,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Chiba near Tokyo was closed after a fire raged through the plant, while JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. closed refineries in Sendai, Kashima and Negishi. A fire is burning near a fuel tank at its Sendai refinery, JX Nippon said in a statement on its website.
JX Nippon is having difficulties supplying oil products in areas around Tokyo and northern Japan, it said. Some gasoline stations are running out of supplies. Queues as long as 1 kilometer were seen at gas stations north of Tokyo.
Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. halted shipments at two refineries., JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp.
The list may grow. Kyodo reported yesterday that Hino Motors Ltd. and Nippon Paper Group Inc. are suspending operations, while Asahi newspaper reported Nikon Corp. has suspended operation at its camera plant in Miyagi prefecture.
Outside Japan, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. Chairman Chang Xiaobing said yesterday the company is fixing Internet broadband services that have been disrupted by the Japanese earthquake. Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp. said affiliate M Setek Co. shut down operations in Sendai and Soma.
Last week, spokesmen at Japan’s three-largest carmakers -- Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. -- said thousands of new vehicles were damaged. Toyota will suspend production at its dozen factories in Japan and its body makers on March 14, while Honda said it will stop production at factories in Sayama, Mouka, Hamamatsu and Suzuka.
Oriental Land Co., operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort, shut the amusement park and said March 12 it will decide March 21 when it will reopen. Shutting the park for three months may cost Walt Disney Co. about $50 million in lost royalty revenue, according to Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch.
NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile-phone operator, said last week it’s restricting as much as 80 percent of voice traffic in northern Japan, while Softbank Corp. said had no timeframe as to when its service would return to normal.
On the day of the earthquake, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, said it closed five factories, while Toyota Boshoku Corp. reported damage at a plant in Miyagi. Denso Corp., Japan’s biggest auto-parts maker, said a plant under construction south of Miyagi was damaged.
Builders May Gain
Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Dowa Holdings Co. said March 11 they stopped operations at metal smelters following the earthquake.
Construction companies may benefit. Fukuda Corp. shares surged 30 percent in the final minutes of trading on March 11. Construction companies that may gain include Daiwa House Industry Co., JGC Corp., Kajima Corp., Obayashi Corp., Sekisui House Ltd., Shimizu Corp., and Taisei Corp., according to Keybank Capital Markets Inc.
The major rebuilding that will occur will also likely benefit timber-related companies as wood is more earthquake resistant than concrete, according to Dundee Capital Markets Inc. Acadian Timber Corp., Ainsworth Lumber Co., Canfor Pulp Products Inc., Interforest Ltd., Louisiana-Pacific Corp., Norbord Inc., Plum Creek Timber Co., TimberWest Forest Corp., West Fraser Timber Co. and Weyerhaeuser Co. are among those that may benefit, according to Dundee.
“The quake will put a huge brake on the economy, so almost everyone including Shin-Etsu and JR East will get hit,” Mitsuo Shimizu, an equity analyst at Cosmo Securities Co. in Tokyo, said by telephone yesterday. “Japan can’t have tight budget anymore to rebuild the country. Construction companies and cement makers will benefit from rebuilding.”