The Group conducts international business operations, and unexpected events, such as political or social events or natural phenomena, can have a negative impact on the Group’s business in the related regions or markets. In the field of marine transport, the Group’s main business domain, conditions for cargo volumes and shipping are influenced by various factors, including economic trends in countries around the world, commodity market conditions, the balance of supply and demand for vessels and competition. Changes in these factors can have an impact on the Group’s operating activities and operating results. In particular, changes in the taxation systems and economic policies of Japan and major trading countries and regions, such as North America, Europe and China, or their implementation of protective trade policies, etc., can causes a decline in international transport volumes and freight rates, with an attendant negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
Other major risks that could negatively impact the Group’s business activities include the following:
1. Exchange Rate Fluctuations
A high proportion of the Group’s business sales is denominated in US dollars. As a consequence, values converted into Japanese yen may be affected by the foreign exchange rate. The Group takes measures to minimize the negative impact of foreign exchange fluctuations by converting expenses into US dollars and entering into foreign exchange forward contracts. However, appreciation of the yen against the US dollar could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
2. Fuel Oil Price Fluctuations
Fuel cost is a significant component of the Group’s ship operation costs. The price of fuel oil is extremely difficult to predict because it reflects a number of factors that are beyond the Group’s control, such as the supply and demand balance of crude oil, trends among OPEC and other oil producing countries, and changes in the politics and oil production capacity of oil-producing countries. Moreover, an expansion and strengthening of environmental regulations could require use of high quality fuel that has a low environmental impact, which could oblige the Group to procure fuel at a higher price. The Group takes measures to avoid the impact of unstable price fluctuations by fixing the price for a certain portion of its fuel consumption using futures contracts. However, a significant and sustained increase in fuel oil prices would push up the Group’s operating costs and have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
3. Interest Rate Fluctuations
The Group continuously makes capital expenditures for building vessels and so forth. The Group strives to reduce interest-bearing debt to the greatest extent possible by utilizing its own capital and engaging in off-balance deals. However, it relies on borrowing from financial institutions for a significant portion of its funds. In addition, the Group procures operating capital required for business operations.
When procuring funds, the Group borrows a certain amount at a fixed rate of interest, or uses fixed interest rate swaps for some of its borrowings for investment in ships and equipment. However, future interest-rate movements could increase the Group’s financing costs, which could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
4. Public Regulations
The shipping business is influenced by international treaties on operation, registration, construction of ships and environmental conservation in general, as well as laws and regulations relating to business licenses and taxes in each country and region. The enactment of new laws and regulations in the future could restrict the Group’s business development and increase its business costs, which could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results. The Group’s operated vessels are managed and operated in accordance with current laws and regulations, and they carry appropriate insurance coverage. However, relevant laws and regulations could be changed, and this may incur a cost to make the Group compliant with such changes.
The Group has been investigated by the competition authorities in Europe and certain other countries in relation to alleged anti-competitive behavior (alleged formation of a cartel) relating to the transportation of automobiles, automotive construction machineries and other automotive vehicles. In addition, the Group is currently subject to class actions in North America on the same matter.
5. Serious Marine Incidents, Negative Environmental Impact, Conflicts, etc.
The Group has positioned safety in all ship operations and environmental conservation as its top priorities and has maintained and strengthened its safe operation standards as well as a crisis management system.
With regard to environmental conservation, the Group recognizes the burden placed on the global environment by its business activities and promotes an Environmental Policy to minimize this burden. To ensure that initiatives for the environment are steadily promoted in line with the Environmental Policy, the CSR & Environmental Committee, chaired by the President & CEO, has been established to deliberate and formulate this promotion structure. Moreover, in March 2015, the Group formulated ““K” LINE Environmental Vision 2050: Securing Blue Seas for Tomorrow,” to stipulate the direction of the entire Company’s long-term initiatives.
With regard to safety in navigation, the Ship Safety Promotion Committee, chaired by the President & CEO, meets periodically to conduct investigations and initiatives based on all manner of perspectives with regard to those matters related to safety in navigation. Furthermore, in our Emergency Response Manual we have set out the actions we must take in the event of emergency, and accident response is continually improved by regularly holding accident response drills. However, an unexpected accident, particularly one involving an oil spill or other major accidents leading to environmental pollution, could occur and have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results. Furthermore, piracy losses, operating in areas affected by political unrest or military conflict, and the increased risk to vessels from terrorism could cause major damage to the Group’s vessels and jeopardize lives of the crews. This in turn, could have a negative impact on the Group’s safe operation of vessels, voyage planning and management and overall marine transportation business.
6. Competitive Business Environment, etc.
The Group conducts its business in the international marine transportation market. In competing with other leading marine transportation companies in Japan and overseas, differences between the Group and peers in terms of management resource allocation in each business segment and competitiveness on cost and technology could have a negative impact on the Group’s position in the industry and on its operating results.
In the highly competitive containership business segment, the Group maintains and enhances the competitiveness of its services by participating in alliances with other marine transportation companies. However, events that the Group cannot control, such as a unilateral withdrawal by alliance partners, could have a negative impact on the Group’s sales activities, financial position and operating results.
7. Natural Disasters
Maintenance of business operations in the event of a natural disaster is the Group’s duty as the Group provides pivotal role for society, and it is a critical aspect of the justification for the Group’s existence. If a major earthquake were to occur at the heart of the Tokyo metropolitan area, many buildings, transportation systems and lifelines are expected to suffer major damage. Furthermore, if a highly virulent new strain of influenza were to arise and cause a global pandemic, it could seriously harm the health of many people. Reputational damage could also accompany such natural disasters and secondary disasters.
The Group has drawn up a business continuity plan for these two disasters. In the event of a natural disaster, while the Group’s goal is to continue business operations by applying or adapting this plan, such natural disasters could have a certain degree of negative impact on the Group’s business.
8. Business Partners’ Failure to Perform Contracts
When selecting business partners to provide service to or to receive service, the Group investigates their reliability as far as possible. However a business partner’s financial position may deteriorate in the future, and a full or partial breach of a contract could subsequently occur. This could in turn have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
9. Non-achievement of Investment Plans
The Group plans the necessary investments to upgrade its fleet. However, if the investments do not proceed as planned due to changes in conditions in the shipping markets or official regulations in the future, the Group may be obliged to cancel ship building contracts prior to taking delivery of newbuildings and so forth, which could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results. In addition, if demand for transportation of cargo falls below the Group’s prior projections when the Group takes delivery of newbuildings, it could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
10. Losses from Disposal of Vessels, etc.
The Group strives to upgrade its fleet flexibly in accordance with market conditions. However, it may be obliged to sell some of its vessels or make an early termination of charter contracts for chartered vessels if the actual balance of supply and demand for vessels deteriorates, or if vessels become obsolete due to technological innovation. As a result, there could be a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
11. Fixed Asset Impairment Losses and Market Value Fluctuations of Securities
Deterioration in the profitability of the Group’s fixed assets such as vessels may make recovery of the investment amounts unlikely. In cases where the Group recognizes loss on impairment of fixed assets as a result, it could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results. In addition, as the evaluation standard and evaluation method for its marketable securities, or investment securities with a market price, the Group uses a market value method based on the market price on the last day of each financial term. As a result, a fall in the market price due to fluctuations in stock market conditions could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
12. Reversal of Deferred Tax Assets
The Group evaluates the likelihood of a reversal of deferred income taxes based on its estimated future taxable income. If the Group were to determine that it would not be able to secure sufficient taxable income in the future due to a decline in its earning capacity, its deferred income taxes would be reversed and income tax expense would be recorded. This could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
13. Allowance for loss on chartered vessel contracts
The Group contract out containerships which the Company and its consolidated subsidiaries charter to other charterers. Because charter rates are highly sensitive to fluctuations in charter markets, there is a risk that charter rates may fall below hire rates. Based on available information, the Group recorded a provision for potential future losses whose amount can be reasonably estimated under certain contracts where charter rates fall below hire rates. However, depending on changes in the Group’s planning for chartered vessel contracts or trends in charter markets, it may be necessary for the Group to record an additional provision for losses, which could have a negative impact on the Group’s financial position and operating results.
Note:Matters referring to the future are as judged by the “K” Line Group at the issue date of financial statements of April 26, 2019. In addition, the items discussed here do not necessarily represent every risk to the “K” Line Group.