TOKYO -- Japanese office equipment maker Ricoh plans to shift production of multifunction printers for the American market out of China and consolidate in Thailand, Nikkei has learned.
The move, which will take place as early as this summer, anticipates a fourth and final round of tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war which includes printers.
Industry peers Fuji Xerox and Canon said they are watching developments on U.S. tariffs. More production shifts could follow if the threatened levies of up to 25% on roughly 3,800 goods take effect. A decision by U.S. President Donald Trump is expected as early as late June.
Ricoh makes printers for the U.S. market in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and in Thailand's central Rayong Province. The production shift will see output of high-end models now made in Shenzhen move to Thailand, which will produce all Ricoh printers bound for the U.S.
The Tokyo-based company has begun to increase Thai production capacity ahead of the transfer and expects it to move quickly. The Chinese- and Thai-made printer models share 70% to 80% of the same components.
After the transfer, Ricoh's Shenzhen facilities will continue to build printers for European and Asian markets, including Japan. U.S.-bound output accounts for about a tenth of the facilities' production.
The Americas constitute Ricoh's biggest region for sales outside Japan, accounting for about 30% of the company's roughly 1.09 trillion yen ($9.97 billion) in printer segment sales for the year ended in March.
Faced with sluggish demand for printers as businesses use less paper, Ricoh and its peers would face difficulty passing on tariff-related cost increases to consumers, analysts say. The threatened duties raise a problem for Japanese makers of multifunction printers, which hold a roughly 70% combined global market share.
A spokesperson for Fuji Xerox said the company "will consider the best response while closely watching developments." Canon also said it was watching the situation.
The proposed fourth round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods targets products for which American depends heavily on China. China accounts for 52% of the value of U.S. imports of multifunction printers, U.S. trade statistics show.