Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Canon and the dollar

A Wall Street Journal article today tracks the finances of Canon Inc. The company is reportedly ready to set a record profit for the year, yet its stock price has been tumbling.

The reason for this seeming contradiction, according to the article, has to do with the falling dollar. “The company, which takes in three-quarters of its sales overseas, is one of Japan's biggest exporters. In this position, it is more vulnerable than most Japanese companies to fluctuating exchange rates and a slowing U.S. economy.” When the US economy sneezes, Canon is in danger of catching cold; the biggest decline, the article notes, came during the August mortgage-credit crunch in the US.

All this in spite of eight years in a row of record earnings and continued growth. But while Canon has hedged against currency fluctuations, the rapidity of the dollar’s decline versus the yen has surprised everyone. Investors are speculating that the dollar’s decline is not over. And 60% of Canon’s sales are in the US.

The point is that if Canon, with its strong market position and sustained profits is feeling the threat, its rivals, likewise highly dependent on Asian manufacturing, are likely to be suffering even more. For buyers of office equipment, it may be a mixed deal: the real cost in dollars of copiers and printers has to be going up, while the vendors, worried about a decline in sales, may be open to more aggressive bargaining.

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