Japan’s three biggest exports-oriented companies are automobile manufacturers. Four mammoth Japanese electronics conglomerates also rank among the Asian island’s top exports-related businesses.
The following metrics give some perspective on recent company performance. The overall value of Japanese exports increased by 7% from US$690.2 billion in 2014 to $738.2 billion during 2018. Year over year, Japan’s total exported goods appreciated by 5.7% from 2017 to 2018.
In the analysis below, we compare 10 of Japan’s top export companies based on asset values, sales and profitability as of December 2018. Also presented is the Japanese locale where each business has its headquarters.
Japan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Below are Japan’s biggest export companies organized by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of December 2018 compared to May 2017.
- Toyota Motor (car/truck makers): US$473 billion, up 14.7% from 2017
- Honda Motor (car/truck makers): $181.9 billion, up 12.4%
- Sony (consumer electronics): $179.3 billion, up 18.2%
- Nissan Motor (car/truck makers): $173.7 billion, up 10.4%
- Hitachi (electronics): $95 billion, up 14.9%
- JX Holdings (oil, gas): $79.5 billion, up 37.1%
- Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (iron, steel): $71.4 billion, up 30.8%
- Panasonic (consumer electronics): $59.2 billion, up 12.3%
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (heavy equipment): $51.6 billion, up 5.5%
- Toshiba (IT, electronics): $39.9 billion, down -16.4%
Nine of these Japanese exporters grew their asset values from 2017 to December 2018 led by energy industry player JX Holdings which expanded its asset base by 37.1%. Asset growth was 30.8% for iron and steel producer Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal trailed by the 18.2% increase for consumer electronics titan Sony.
The sole decline was a -16.4% setback for world-class electronics firm Toshiba.
Sales is the life blood of most businesses, particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Eight of Japan’s 10 biggest export companies increased their year-over-year sales as of December 2018.
- Toyota Motor: US$265.2 billion, up 6.1% from 2017
- Honda Motor: $138.6 billion, up 8.4%
- Nissan Motor: $106.9 billion, up 0.9%
- JX Holdings: $92.9 billion, up 29%
- Hitachi: $84.5 billion, down -1.5%
- Sony: $77.1 billion, up 11.4%
- Panasonic: $72 billion, up 8.1%
- Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal: $51.1 billion, up 22.8%
- Toshiba: $38.7 billion, down -18%
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries: $37.1 billion, up 3.1%
Oil and gas firm JX Holdings posted the strongest increase in sales, up 29% from 2017 to December 2018. In second place was iron and steel company Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal via its 22.8% sales improvement then consumer electronics competitor Sony with its 11.4% expansion.
There were a pair of sales decliners, namely electronics competitors Toshiba (down -18%) and Hitachi (down -1.5%).
Nine of 10 Japanese major exports-related companies were profitable as of December 2018.
- Toyota Motor: US$19.3 billion, up 31.6% from 2017
- Honda Motor: $9.6 billion, up 146.2%
- Nissan Motor: $7.4 billion, up 64.4%
- Sony: $4.4 billion, reversing a -$393 million loss
- Hitachi: $3.3 billion, up 83.3%
- JX Holdings: $3.3 billion, reversing a -$649.6 million loss
- Panasonic: $2.1 billion, up 10.5%
- Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal: $1.8 billion, reversing a -$477 million loss
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries: $636 million, reversing a -$7.3 million loss
- Toshiba: -$3.6 billion, -6% smaller
Four Japanese major enterprises reversed losses in 2017 by posting healthy profits at December 2018: oil and gas firm JX Holdings, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and consumer electronics seller Sony.
The sole loser at the end of 2018 was Toshiba via its -$3.6 billion in red ink, albeit that loss is -6% smaller than one year earlier.
Seven of the 10 largest Japanese export companies are based in Japan’s capital city Tokyo.
- Hitachi: Tokyo
- Honda Motor: Tokyo
- JX Holdings: Tokyo
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries: Tokyo
- Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal: Tokyo
- Nissan Motor: Yokohama
- Panasonic: Kadoma
- Sony: Tokyo
- Toshiba: Tokyo
- Toyota Motor: Toyota, Aichi Prefecture
Toyota is a town located in Aichi Prefecture with its estimated population of 7.5 million residents in 2017. Several of Toyota Motor’s manufacturing plants are located in the prefecture where Toyota has a long-standing relationship. This accounts for the fact that the town shares the corporation’s name.
Note some of the above company offerings may include products other than the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.
For example, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries produces not only ships, industrial machinery and aircraft but also engineers land, sea and air transportation systems as well as offering real estate sales, printing and information services.
Similarly, JX Holdings creates refined petroleum, natural gas, basic chemical products, lubricants, coal, electricity as well as offering metal recycling and industrial waste treatment services.
See also Japan’s Top 10 Exports, Japan’s Top 10 Imports and Top Japanese Trade Balances,
Forbes Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top Japanese company compiled for this study: Toyota Motor. Accessed on October 2, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings for Japan, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 2, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 2, 2019
Wikipedia, Category: Companies of Japan. Accessed on October 2, 2019
Wikipedia, List of companies of Japan. Accessed on October 2, 2019
Wikipedia, Toyota, Aichi. Accessed on October 2, 2019