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Business trends

Chipmaker Renesas and others assess damage from recent quake

Northern Japan temblor brings echoes of 2011 production snags

Renesas shut down its key Naka factory in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, for safety reasons after power was temporarily knocked out. (Photo by Kotaro Hosokawa)

TOKYO -- The earthquake that struck Saturday night off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, shaking northern and eastern Japan, has tripped up operations for many companies in a faint echo of the disruption brought by the much larger quake that hit the same area in 2011.

Renesas Electronics, a chipmaker, was one manufacturer affected. It shut down its key Naka factory in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, for safety reasons after power was temporarily knocked out.

The company said it began inspecting its clean rooms on Sunday morning and is still considering when to restart the plant, the main production site for the company's in-vehicle semiconductors. If the shutdown drags on, it could add to a global shortage of automotive chips.

The plant was knocked offline for about three months following the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, as clean rooms and other production facilities were damaged by the quake. Automakers then had to endure a supply squeeze. 

Other semiconductor-related manufacturers have also been affected by the latest temblor. Shin-Etsu Chemical has shut down its subsidiary's Shirakawa plant. The Fukushima facility turns out the silicon wafers chips are built on. The company said no major damage to the factory or power outages have been confirmed, and the manufacturer began the restart process on Sunday. Shin-Etsu is still assessing the effects of the suspension on production.

In the materials sector, Mitsui Chemicals has stopped operations at its Ichihara plant in Chiba Prefecture due to a power outage. Power has been restored to the petrochemical complex, but it is expected to take about 10 days to two weeks to get the facility up and running again, according to the company. The plant in Chiba produces ethylene and resin products used in daily necessities and auto parts. The company has sufficient inventory to continue operating for a while, but it assessing the effect of the shutdown on shipments.

JFE Steel has suspended some operations at its factory in Sendai in northern Japan's Miyagi prefecture, and Nippon Paper has also halted two facilities in the prefecture where it makes printing paper.

An IHI plant in Fukushima Prefecture is seen here in 2019: The company plans to suspend operations on Monday due to an abnormality discovered in electrical equipment at the factory.

IHI plans to suspend operations on Monday due to an abnormality in electrical equipment at its plant in Fukushima Prefecture, where it manufactures aircraft engine parts.

Retailer, Aeon closed eight stores such in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures on Sunday and Monday. The company said its first priority is safety, with shopping malls damaged by the quake. Aeon said the ceiling board is peeling off and sprinklers are leaking. 

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