Japanese investors in UK considering shifting operations to Asia, the Americas post Brexit

Although over half of the of the 10,508 Japanese companies surveyed by the Teikoku Databank thought Brexit would have a negative impact on the Japanese economy, it is a salutary reminder that not only the UK but also the EU are just a small corner of the Japanese corporate environment that only 9.2% had business in the UK or other EU countries.  A tiny 1.9% had actually set up sales arms or local subsidiaries, with 7.5% having collaborative agreements or importing/exporting from the EU or some other indirect business.  Unsurprisingly, the larger the company, the more likely they were to be active in Europe.  Manufacturers and wholesalers were dominant, but financial services companies represented the top direct investors.

Of the companies surveyed,

  • 35.9% had business with Germany
  • 31.5% with the UK
  • 23.3% with France
  • 21.4% with Italy
  • 11.9% with Spain, 11.9% with the Netherlands

Of those who were in Europe and considering moving operations, the top choices for destination were:

  1. 2.9% to Asia
  2. EU (undecided/unspecified) 1.6%
  3. Italy 1.5%
  4. UK 1.3% (despite Brexit)
  5. Germany 1.2%

Of those who had directly invested in the UK, 12.8% of those who were looking to move operations were considering elsewhere in the EU (Unspecified EU, Germany, France being the most cited) but Asia and the Americas were also mentioned as frequently as Germany or France.

51.3% of the companies who responded felt that Brexit would have a negative impact on the Japanese economy, although over 60% felt that it would have not much impact on their own company, with only 9.4% saying it would have a negative effect.  However 46.2% of those who had direct investments in the UK said there would be a negative impact.

Hardly any respondents (less than 1%) said Brexit would have a positive impact on the Japanese economy or their industry and only 2.6% of those companies with direct investments in the UK said it would have a positive effect on their own company.

In other words, large numbers chose “don’t know” or “no effect” as their response.

The Teikoku Databank concludes that the EU is likely to be dominated by Germany and France in the future and the non-Eurozone EU countries are going to find it hard without the UK as a member.  There are counterwinds to free trade and a concern that Brexit will lead to other countries leaving the EU.  “The EU is nice as an ideal, but there are too many contradictions in terms of the varying levels of political and economic development” says one canned goods wholesaler.

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