Companies worldwide are beset by the very near-term threat of the coronavirus and the long-term specter of climate change. Air conditioning giant Daikin Industries Ltd. might be one of the few companies that stands to benefit from both.
Nearing a market value of ¥5 trillion ($47 billion), the world’s largest maker of air conditioners is riding an almost uninterrupted eight-year streak that has seen its shares surge more than 700 percent. It’s now the 19th largest stock on the Topix and has also beat the broader index by 15 percentage points this year.
The streak is being helped by surging interest in ventilation. Suddenly, everyone wants to know how air conditioners work — and how they can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As Japan enters peak season for air conditioner installs, Daikin has been heavily advertising its latest model complete with the timely and unique ability to bring outside air indoors.
With the pandemic turning everyone in germophobes, many consumers have been surprised to learn that most air conditioners only circulate air indoors — heat, not air, is moved outside. Daikin’s Urusara X is different, with technology that allows it to bring in fresh air from outside. The company says it’s the only model with this ability.
“However, it doesn’t remove air indoors to the outside,” a Daikin spokesman cautions. He recommends using it in combination with periodically opening windows. Daikin, with an 18 percent share of the residential air conditioner market, has seen an increase in demand for the units, he said.
The most popular type of the model on Japan’s largest price-comparison site retails for a hefty ¥180,000 ($1,680) and is equipped with Daikin’s virus-killing air-purification technology.
Daikin is also thought to be a beneficiary of the government’s long-delayed cash handouts of ¥100,000 ($936) per person. While many in the U.S. have been putting their government checks into trading stocks on Robinhood, droves of Japanese workers stuck at home — often in rooms not equipped with air conditioners — are looking to keep themselves cool.
Japan was once dominant in the global market for so-called white goods, such as washing machines. Air conditioners are now the market where Japanese firms are strongest, said Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist for Rakuten Securities Economic Research Institute.
Daikin conducts sales in over 150 countries, boosted by more than 100 manufacturing sites, which became advantageous when global logistics lines were disrupted by coronavirus lockdowns.
The company’s management team, led by President Masanori Togawa, has impressed with its quick response to the pandemic. At its earnings teleconference, Daikin unveiled an exhaustive set of steps aimed at capitalizing on the pandemic and seizing market share in a post-COVID-19 world, which met with almost universal acclaim from analysts.
“The firm’s competitive position could be even stronger in the post-COVID world,” wrote SMBC Nikko analysts Taku Ouchi and Asuka Sasao.
Still, the company’s forecasts for this year — ¥150 billion in operating profit from ¥2.33 trillion in revenue — are well below the targets it set in a mid-term plan in 2018, leaving it much work to do to hit its goals.
“We’re watching how they’ll correct course in the post-coronavirus world,” said Masahiko Ishino, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute Co. “Now is the time to lay the groundwork to solidify the position of global number one.”
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