Lost Japan sales hurt U.S. company profits

Published April 26, 2011

| Reuters

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Japan disaster and aftermath are cutting into the sales and profits of U.S. companies that serve Japanese consumers, from Coca Cola <KO.N> to Coach Inc <COH.N> and 3M <MMM.N>, even though shoppers are showing some resilience.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, was stagnating economically before the March 11 earthquake, but it remains a major market for many companies, particularly consumer product makers and store chains.

Coach, known for its fancy leather handbags, gets nearly one-fifth of its sales from Japan. The aftermath of last month's earthquake and the nuclear disaster could cost it 2 to 3 cents in profit per share in the current quarter, or roughly 5 percent of Wall Street's profit forecast.

Coke's results disappointed Wall Street in part because of lost revenue in Japan. The soft-drink maker said disruptions to its supply chain are hampering bottlers' ability to produce its beverages in time for the summer.

"Overall, I think the supply chain is still stressed in Japan in terms of being able to supply the market," Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent told analysts on a conference call.

Coke said the events could cut earnings per share by another 2 to 4 cents for the rest of the fiscal year. Wall Street is expecting Coke profits of $3.01 per share in the year's three remaining quarters, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"I think there will be a period of time where I think people will have a higher demand for packaged beverages," Kent told Reuters in an interview. He said that he expects Coke's sales in Japan to normalize in the fourth quarter after getting hit during the second and third quarters.

Other companies are seeing signs of a rebound, or have the benefit of growth elsewhere to offset any slump in Japan.

Sales of luxury goods in Japan are likely to recover to levels seen before the crisis, Christian Dior <DIOR.PA> CEO Sidney Toledano told Reuters on Tuesday.

Reaching out to shoppers early on may help boost sales in the long run. Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> has imported water from Canada and shipped goods such as food over from the United States to meet demand at more than 400 stores.

"That's really helping the customer in Japan to recover at a time like this," Wal-Mart President and Chief Executive Mike Duke said at a Barclays conference on Tuesday.

Wal-Mart has reopened all but about five of its Japanese stores and its distribution network is running. Wal-Mart's efforts should translate into more strength in Japan on a longer-term basis, Duke said.

INDUSTRIAL PRESSURE

Companies that produce relatively few items sold directly to people in Japan are feeling the impact as Japanese manufacturing output has taken a hit.

Conglomerate 3M Co <MMM.N> has a higher exposure to Japan than most of its industrial peers, with 9 percent of its sales generated there.

3M sells to auto and electronics businesses in Japan that have seen production disruptions since the March disasters.

The maker of Scotch tape, Post-It notes, industrial abrasives and health-care and electronics products, said the Japan crisis cut first-quarter earnings by about 3 cents a share and will reduce full-year profit by 10 cents to 13 cents a share.

Wall Street analysts expect a full-year profit of $6.22 per share.

Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N> expects to lose about $75 million in Japanese business in the current quarter.

The reduced profit forecasts on Tuesday from Coach, Coke and 3M echoed those in recent weeks from jeweler Tiffany & Co <TIF.N> and clothing store chain Gap Inc <GPS.N>, which still get the bulk of their Asian sales in Japan even as they eye fast-growing China.

Yet, for all the disruption, the damage has been relatively contained.

"We don't see any long-term damage. In fact our business has rebounded in our full-price locations," Coach CEO Lew Frankfort told Reuters. "We believe Japan will return to normal."

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller and Nick Zieminski in New York, Karen Jacobs in Atlanta and Jessica Wohl in Chicago. Editing by Robert MacMillan, Gary Hill)

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