Time and Tides – Flooding in Japan

July 15, 2018 – 427 ANALYSIS: Record-setting rains in Japan led to floods and landslides that disrupted business operations of automobile manufacturers, electronic companies and others. Understanding the ownership and operations of facilities located in the damaged areas provides insight into what companies and industries may exhibit downturns in performance over the near term and be vulnerable to similar storms in the future.

Japan was the inundated by over 70 inches of rain in early July, an event that resulted in significant loss of life and business disruptions. The clouds have since receded, leaving economic damage with long-term implications yet to be understood. However, estimates expect industry losses to be in the billions USD. Destruction was centered in Okayama and Hiroshima, driven by flooding and landslides.

Typhoons Prapiroon and Maria contributed to this rainfall and climate scientists expect a warmer climate to increase the severity of these storms. Japan has fewer preparations in place for floods than it does for other extreme events, and understanding the various manifestations of risk caused by extreme rainfall is essential to mitigating damage in the future.

Much of Okayama sits immediately below mountains, which makes it particularly exposed to devastating landslides following significant rainfall events. Bursting pipes and power outages led over 250,000 homes in the Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures to go without water for several days after the floods. Landslides destroyed homes and exacerbated infrastructure damage caused by flooding.

Many business operations were severely impacted by these events as well, and some facilities remain closed.  Companies such as Panasonic experienced physical damage due to flooded facilities, and others were impacted by damaged infrastructure and communities, impacting their supply chains and workforce.

Okayama and Hiroshima are centers of economic activity for a number of key sectors in Japan, hosting production facilities for auto manufacturing, consumer electronics, retail trade and others. The figure below highlights the concentration of facilities of companies in the auto manufacturing industry by the sector of their operations. Companies that rely heavily on manufacturing operations are particularly vulnerable to flooding due in part to their utilization of expensive equipment that can easily incur water damage.

The heavy rainfalls showed no favorites in their disruption of manufacturing facilities across industries. For example, Mitsubishi and Mazda halted operations at some factories during the storms, due in part to supply chain disruptions. Many companies were also forced to pause operations because employees couldn’t get to work. While Mazda’s headquarters in Hiroshima Prefecture and a production facility in Yamaguchi Prefecture weren’t damaged themselves, they remained closed after the storms until employees could return to work safely. Likewise IHI Corp. closed its No. 2 Kure factory in Hiroshima  because of water shortages and employees’ commute challenges.

The extent of   long-term economic impacts that these companies will bear in the aftermath of last week’s storms is not yet known, but merits ongoing examination as the region recovers. Understanding the location of a corporation’s facilities and their exposure to extreme weather events is a key starting point for gauging exposure, and therefore can be instrumental in understanding company’s future performance.

Four Twenty Seven’s extensive facility level database can help investors proactively identify their portfolio companies’ exposures both to chronic climate effects and to individual extreme weather events such as the extreme rainfall that beset Okayama and Hiroshima. This deeper understanding can drive better risk-return tradeoffs, and importantly, shareholder engagement strategies that foster investments in resilience.