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Business

Japanese companies' capital spending plans jump 15.8%

Semiconductor and electronic parts makers show biggest increases

Sophisticated smartphones and booming construction of data centers have created a global shortage of semiconductors.   © Not selection

TOKYO -- Major Japanese companies sharply upgraded their plans for capital investment spending in fiscal 2017, by 15.8% from the year before, the largest increase since the peak of the country's asset-inflated economy in 1990, a Nikkei survey showed on Saturday.

At the end of October, combined planned capital investment for the current fiscal year, which began in April, came to 26.22 trillion yen ($235 billion), the survey found.

That is up 1.3% from initial plans at the start of the year, and the second highest figure after 27.26 trillion yen in fiscal 2007 under the current format dating back to 2002, when the data were first collected on a consolidated basis.

The survey covered 1,176 listed companies and others with capital of 100 million yen or more. 

The big jump this year indicates that the willingness of companies to invest is historically high. The largest-ever increase of 16.5% was in fiscal 1990, when the country was in the heyday of its bubble economy.

More than 20% of the surveyed companies, or 247, revised up their plans this year, and 12 of 32 industries did so.

The sectors showing the biggest increases in plans for capital investment were the semiconductor industry and electronic parts manufacturers.

The increasing sophistication of smartphones, and a boom in construction of data centers, have created a global shortage of semiconductors. The field may have entered a "supercycle," in which soaring demand overcomes normal market ups and downs.

Toshiba is a prime example. The electronics maker revised up its planned capital investment spending by 60% from an initial plan of 680 billion yen to reflect investment to expand production at a Toshiba Memory plant in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. 

According to a senior Toshiba official, there is intense competition for semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

"We must place an order immediately, or other companies secure the equipment before we do," he said.

He said the company has moved up 270 billion yen of investment spending originally scheduled for fiscal 2018 to the current fiscal year.

Plans for higher capital spending are also being driven by increasing automation and the need to save labor amid a chronic labor shortage.

Mitsubishi Electric upgraded its initial plan for capital spending by 9.5% to 230 billion yen, with a view to expanding production of components related to factory automation and other equipment.

"We would not be able to catch up with demand if we don't expand capacity in the FA field," said Akihiro Matsuyama, Mitsubishi Electric senior vice president.

The company will increase output of servomotors and other equipment at its main production bases in Nagoya and the Chinese province of Jiangsu.

Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities, believes the trend of investments in electronic components and labor-saving and production streamlining technology will continue for some time.

(Nikkei)

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