Japanese tourists might be digging out suitcases and planning overseas trips with glee, but an ever-climbing yen is putting the nation's largest exporters of cars, games, and even ships in slightly less joyful mood.
The yen has appreciated 8% against the U.S. dollar and 11% against the euro since the traditional start of the fiscal year for many Japanese companies of April 1. And while the reasons for its steady advance are myriad -- ranging from Britain's vote to leave the European Union to the Bank of Japan's monetary policies to the uncertainty in U.S. presidential elections -- the impact on the country's largest companies is easier to calculate.
Mazda (MZDAY) is the latest of the major Japanese exporters to downgrade earnings guidance due to greater-than-expected yen appreciation, as the automaker not only reported a 32% recurring profit decline for the first half of the year but also cut its full-year profit outlook by 12%. The maker of the Demio and CX-3 models essentially blamed the downgrade solely on an unexpectedly strong yen.
Nintendo (NTDOY) , which ignited the Pokemon Go fire this summer, also fell victim to the volatile currency. The Kyoto-based game developer, which generates more than 70% of its sales outside of Japan, slashed its full-year recurring profit forecast by 78% on Oct. 26, again pointing the finger at a greater-than-expected strength in the yen, alongside other factors.
Sony (SNE) was yet another player that recently downgraded its full-year outlook, as the Playstation maker cut its pretax profit guidance by 7.4% Monday, attributing the move both to forex and losses and the sale of its battery business.
However, a strong yen is nothing new to the world's third biggest economy. In fact, the currency hit an all-time high against the greenback of ¥75.75 in late 2011 but began its long reversal in the wake of the ultra-loose monetary policies executed by BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda and the stimulative "Abenomics" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
However, the yen's advance during and after the global financial crisis allowed Japanese exporters to enhance their resistance to an adverse currency environment. Such measures included making conservative foreign exchange assumptions, diversifying businesses and making severe cost cuts.
That effort may be paying off -- for some companies at least -- in this renewed period of yen appreciation.
Take, for example, Hitachi (HTHIY) . The multinational conglomerate, whose businesses range from rice cookers to hydraulic excavators to nuclear power plants to railway trains, kept its full-year earnings outlook intact last week despite adjusting its forex assumption for the second half to ¥100 from ¥110 against the dollar and to ¥110 from ¥120 against the euro.
The company has not only made headway in cutting costs but has also focused on reshuffling its business portfolio to more profitable areas.
Tokyo-based Hitachi even went as far as to say it wants to boost the proportion of sales outside of Japan to more than 55% by March 2019 from 48% in the year ended March 2016. The company expects net profit to jump 16.2% on a sales decline of 10.3% for the year ending March 2017.
Another potential winner -- or should we say survivor -- is Honda Motor (HMC) , which generates nearly 60% of its sales from North America. Despite admitting the impact of a tough currency situation, the maker of the Civic and Jazz models and an F1 race participator lifted its full-year pretax profit forecast by 9.2%, attributing part of the boost to cost reduction efforts.
Honda's announcement is a striking difference to Mazda, which generates a quarter of its sales from North America and just over 12% from Europe.