As of March 2022, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. held assets worth approximately 2.02 trillion Japanese yen, far more than any other publicly listed shipbuilder in Japan. This fact comes as no surprise, since its shipbuilding segment, once temporarily operating as an independent stock company, was fully reabsorbed into the famous manufacturing giant in 2010.
What are major domestic competitors?
Despite Kawasaki Heavy Industries leading at the stock exchange in terms of assets, Kawasaki's vessel output can hardly compete with non-listed Imabari Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., or Japan Marine United Corporation (JMU), which dominate the industry in Japan. Even more so, since the two companies established the joint venture Nihon Shipyard Co., Ltd. in January 2021.
Moreover, JMU is an excellent example of the interconnectedness of industries in Japan, extending to the ownership of dependent companies: JMU is owned by the steelmaker JFE Holdings, the heavy industry manufacturer IHI Corporation, and Imabari Shipbuilding. JMU, in turn, owns IMC Co, Ltd., a machinery parts supplier and ship repair company. JMU partner and shareholder Imabari, on the other hand, is also one of the principal shareholders of Mitsui E&S.
The significance of shipbuilding for Japan
Japan once was the leading shipbuilding nation in the world. Today, around 20 percent of the worldwide output is produced by Japanese companies, which makes the country number three after China at the top and Korea in second place. Bulk carriers fill up the largest part of the Japanese orderbook. Although shipbuilders' sales do not account for that much in the Japanese gross domestic product, the industry's ties to other domestic enterprises make it a vital part of the economy. Consequently, it receives support from the government through advice, credits, and favorable policies. For the country, there is not only historical and economic significance involved but also geopolitical interests. Having territorial disputes with virtually any of its neighbors (especially China), the island nation likely has yet another incentive to maintain strong vessel manufacturing capabilities.
However, unstable business conditions, fierce international competition, and commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions have put pressure on the industry, which reacted with vivid mergers, acquisitions, split-ups, joint ventures, and prudent internationalization. In 2021, the number of listed shipbuilders shrank to four as Sanoyas Shipbuilding was absorbed by the non-listed Shin Kurushima Dockyard. After all, the industry's survival will also depend on how well it can accommodate - maybe even lead - the transition to green maritime shipping in the future.
Leading shipbuilding companies in Japan as of March 2022, by total assets
(in billion Japanese yen)
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Nikkei. (November 15, 2022). Leading shipbuilding companies in Japan as of March 2022, by total assets (in billion Japanese yen) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/895736/japan-leading-shipbuilding-companies-by-total-assets/
Nikkei. "Leading shipbuilding companies in Japan as of March 2022, by total assets (in billion Japanese yen)." Chart. November 15, 2022. Statista. Accessed November 26, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/895736/japan-leading-shipbuilding-companies-by-total-assets/
Nikkei. (2022). Leading shipbuilding companies in Japan as of March 2022, by total assets (in billion Japanese yen). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: November 26, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/895736/japan-leading-shipbuilding-companies-by-total-assets/
Nikkei. "Leading Shipbuilding Companies in Japan as of March 2022, by Total Assets (in Billion Japanese Yen)." Statista, Statista Inc., 15 Nov 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/895736/japan-leading-shipbuilding-companies-by-total-assets/
Nikkei, Leading shipbuilding companies in Japan as of March 2022, by total assets (in billion Japanese yen) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/895736/japan-leading-shipbuilding-companies-by-total-assets/ (last visited November 26, 2022)