Some Japanese companies in the UK see Brexit as a business opportunity

In an article for the Teikoku Databank News in October 2016, I wrote about how Japanese business people in the UK were surprised that many British people’s reaction to Brexit was to try to be positive and seek out new business opportunities – I particularly pointed to Africa and the Middle East, infrastructure projects in the UK and M&A in the UK.

Now Nikkei Business magazine also has an article on Japanese companies in the UK that have indeed seen there are business opportunities in Brexit.

First up is NTT Data, who expect that clients will be looking to introduce new IT systems as a result of Brexit. For example, to cope with any new tariff and customs checks, goods might need IC tags.  Also, there will be more need to check the work permits of EU citizens in the UK.

NTT Data has added over 200 IT consultants and digital design specialists in the past year, to its existing 700 staff and expects to add another 100 this year.  It also acquired UK software development MagenTys company in May 2018 and opened up a design studio in London aimed at collaboration with start-up companies.

Brexit may also mean that the UK’s distribution system needs to adapt – there will be more need for warehousing and holding zones. The Japanese logistics company Nippon Express is therefore looking at strengthening its warehousing business. “We get a lot of enquiries for warehousing, so we want to be ready for any needs arising from Brexit”, says UK MD Toshinori Sakai.

Japanese security company SECOM is also expecting there to be greater needs for security systems arising from Brexit. Up until now security companies had been able to rely on hiring low wage immigrant security guards but if immigration is cut back then there will be greater need for SECOM’s security cameras and other automation, to replace those guards. SECOM’s UK MD, Minoru Takezawa predicts that the cost of providing security will rise as a consequence of cutting off the supply of cheap labour, so technology-based solutions will become more competitive.

SECOM started a new service in 2017 alerting retail chains when people with criminal records are entering their outlets.  They have increased the staffing of their monitoring centre from 40 to 100 and acquired a Northern Ireland headquartered Scan Alarms & Security Systems in March 2017.

Nikkei Business acknowledges that many of Japan’s manufacturers – particularly in the automotive sector –  are preparing for the worst, in terms of Brexit related disruption. But many multinationals in the IT sector, such as Google and Apple, have invested further in London, Cambridge and Oxford, in pursuit of a high skilled workforce and overall Japanese investment into the UK continues to increase in 2016 and 2017, and not just because of SoftBank acquiring ARM in 2016.

Law firm Ashurst’s Hiroyuki Iwamura points out that the UK is a pivot to global markets, particularly to the US. Theresa May is showing particular consideration for Japanese businesses – If they worry too much about the negative impact of Brexit, they may miss some good business chances, Nikkei Business London bureau chief Takahiro Onishi concludes.

If you would like to purchase a detailed list (address, company size etc) of acquisitions made by Japanese companies in the UK in 2016 (24 companies), 2017 (21 companies), 2018 (8 so far), please contact Pernille Rudlin (pernilledotrudlinatrudlinconsultingdotcom)

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