The latest data on the numbers of Japanese companies around the world from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was published over the summer. It’s back down to one spreadsheet, in normal sized font, where the only colours used are to highlight the title of each region. The number of spreadsheets published had mushroomed from 1 to 5 between 2013 and 2018, and even with (or maybe because of) the copious use of tabs, freeze frames and various shades of yellow, orange, green and purple, the whole thing was extremely difficult to navigate.
I used to imagine the moans of the junior civil servants putting in long hours to compile this, the sighs of the middle management having to check its accuracy, and then the teeth grinding of the general managers who wished for the older, simpler days of a printed out hard copy. In the new stripped down MoFA world, the only data disclosed is the total number of Japanese organisations in each country. There are no longer any categories regarding whether they are public limited companies, joint ventures or branches. The data on Japanese nationals resident overseas used to be combined with the data on organisations, but is now published separately.
In a way less data* is less transparency, but perhaps usability is more important than the sheer volume. This seems to have been the decision that Hitachi has made too. The number of pages of its most recent integrated report has been halved from 106 to 53. In Hitachi’s case this can be excused by the sheer size and complexity of the organisation – 320,000 employees working in a huge variety of businesses. What led to the cull was that those writing the report – the investor relations department – were also the users, who talked through the report with investors. They themselves felt it was hard to explain, and feedback from the investors also pointed to usability concerns. Hitachi has won awards for its reports, so this was a bold decision to make.
According to a survey of 881 companies by KPMG, the average integrated report in Japan had 75 pages and 66% of all surveyed companies had 61 pages or more. This ratio has increased by 4 percentage points from two years ago, thanks to the increasing obligation felt to report on ESG metrics.
Anyway, the new simplicity means there is only one chart we can produce from the MoFA data, for countries with more than 100 Japanese companies in Europe, as below:
And yes, it does make certain trends very clear.
- Germany still dominates as a host of Japanese companies, but there seems to be a tailing off of growth (+22% since 2013)
- Conversely, the numbers of Japanese companies in the UK has fallen (-10% since 2013), but now stabilised.
- France continues to grow as a host of Japanese companies (+21% since 2013), with quite a jump in the last year. This may be as a result of the 10 or so acquisitions made of French companies by Japanese companies 2020-2022
- There was a significant leap in the numbers of Japanese companies hosted by Netherlands and Italy in 2019. It’s difficult to know whether this due to the “hard” nature of Brexit becoming clearer in 2018-9 or some change in the way MoFA was categorising its data.
- Eastern European countries, probably due to automotive and other manufacturing costs and existing skills, have become popular – Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechia
- Smaller, more service sector oriented countries in the Nordics and Baltics are also becoming more popular such as Estonia, Denmark, Sweden
- The above has meant that Switzerland, Belgium, Finland and Austria have dropped down the rankings
*Grammar pedants may recoil from the use of “less” with “data” here. Sorry. This may reassure.
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