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Trade war

Exclusive: Sharp eyes moving printer output from China to Thailand

Industry peer Kyocera also looks to Southeast Asia for shelter from US tariffs

Sharp currently makes much of its U.S.-bound office equipment at this plant in China's Jiangsu Province.

OSAKA -- Sharp and Kyocera are the latest office equipment manufacturers based in Japan to consider shifting production away from China to protect their businesses from the U.S.-China trade war, Nikkei has learned.

The two companies would follow global market leader Ricoh, the Japanese peer that has decided to move all production of U.S.-bound high-end multifunction printers to Thailand from China.

Sharp produces most of its multifunction printers destined for the U.S. in China's Jiangsu Province. But the group plans to shift capacity to central Thailand in stages starting later this year if Washington launches a proposed fourth round of tariffs on Chinese-made goods.

Output affected by the move is estimated at nearly 100,000 printers, or about 20% of Sharp's annual global sales. 

The company apparently intends to increase the number of Thai personnel, while not committing any additional capital spending to that location.

Sharp's parent, Apple assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, decided this year to move some production of telecommunications equipment from the Chinese mainland back home to Taiwan in response to trade and technology tensions between the U.S. and China.

Sharp logged roughly 320 billion yen ($2.89 billion) in sales from its office equipment business in fiscal 2018, accounting for over 10% of the company's total sales.

Kyocera is weighing a shift in production of U.S.-bound copiers to facilities in Vietnam, one of two manufacturing hubs for the company along with the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The Kyoto-based group took in sales of about 375 billion yen from the office equipment operation in fiscal 2018, with about 25% coming from the U.S.

An actual transfer of capacity would take about half a year. Kyocera will decide after examining the impact of the U.S.-China trade war on its business.

 Washington is preparing to enact tariffs of up to 25% on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, including multifunction printers, as early as next month. The U.S. imports 52% of its multifunction printers from China by value, according to official statistics.

Ricoh leads the global market for A3 laser multifunction printers, with a share of about 17%, according to International Data Corp. Kyocera ranks fifth, followed by Sharp in sixth place. The top six companies, which include Fuji Xerox, Canon and Konica Minolta, hold a combined global share topping 80%.

Fuji Xerox and Canon also export office equipment from China to the U.S.

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