January 24, 2013 / 5:56 PM / in 5 years

Japanese execs at Davos bemoan strong yen, China ties

* Nissan, Toshiba heads say 100 yen to dollar acceptable

* BOJ needs to be more pro-active - Toshiba chairman

* New PM Abe may be forced to tone down China rhetoric

By Kelvin Soh

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Japan’s central bank needs to allow the yen to depreciate further, instead of waiting for cues from other major economies before moving, Japanese executives from companies hit by a rising local currency said on Thursday.

Their comments follow the Bank of Japan’s move to double its inflation target to 2 percent and made an open-ended commitment to buying assets next year, in an attempt to end years of economic stagnation.

“Today, we are still in a position where the yen is a handicap,” Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co’s chief executive, said in an interview during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“A natural territory for the dollar-yen exchange rate should be 100. Historically, it’s been 110.”

The yen posted steep losses on Thursday after three days of gains to trade at about 90 yen to the dollar, weighed down by Japan’s record trade deficit and comments from an economics official who said the government had no problem with the dollar hitting 100 yen.

“Ultimately, what we want is stability in the exchange rate,” said Toshiba Corp Chairman Atsutoshi Nishida in a separate interview, adding that a dollar-yen exchange rate of about 100 would be suitable for the company.

“The problem (is) that the U.S. will do something and the Bank of Japan will follow. A major economy will do something, and the Bank of Japan will follow. We are always following.”

A strong yen, a high corporate tax rate and other issues such as the high cost of electricity following the shutdown of most of the country’s nuclear power plants has resulted in Toshiba having to move manufacturing jobs outside Japan to remain competitive, Nishida said.


Worsening relations between China and Japan - over a chain of disputed islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan - have also hurt sales, the executives said.

“Our sales have been affected in China, just like all other Japanese companies,” said Nissan’s Ghosn. “We hope we won’t have too many hiccups like this and all the investments that we’ve done are being jeopardised.”

Sales of Japanese cars and other products have been hurt in recent months. Nissan’s sales in China are down about 20 percent since tensions erupted in September, a senior Nissan executive said on Jan. 15.

Japanese politicians have done little to soothe relations so far, with hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, returned to power in a landslide victory last month, having vowed to take a tough stance against China during his election campaign.

However, the reality of political office will soon set in and Abe may ease the hardline stance he took while campaigning, said the Toshiba chairman.

“Prime Minister Abe has many priorities, but I think the first thing he wants to do is revive the Japanese economy,” said Nishida.

“China is Japan’s largest export market and Japan’s ties with China will have an effect on the prime minister’s economic policy. He will be realistic on this.” (Editing by David Holmes)

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