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We conduct business on a global scale across a broad range of business areas and utilize sophisticated, specialized technologies to carry out our operations. Therefore, we are exposed to risks attributable to the economic environment, risks inherent in individual industrial sectors and business lines and risks related to our operations. Investment in our securities also involves risks. The following risks are based on the assumption we consider reasonable as of June 29, 2018 (the filing date of Annual Securities Report (The 149th Business Term)).
Our business is influenced by the global economy and economic conditions in certain regions or countries. We are affected by downward economic trends in the U.S., Europe, China, emerging countries and Japan. Such economic conditions could cause decline in consumer spending or capital investment and subsequently reduced demand for our products and services, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Since we conduct business in many foreign countries, our business activities are exposed to risks from fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. We sell products, provide services and purchase raw materials and components in local currencies. Therefore, fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may result in lower revenues or higher costs in yen to us and thus affect our results of operations, which are reported in Japanese yen. Our price competitiveness, and thus our results of operations, may be harmed if we seek to increase prices in local currencies to compensate for lower revenues or to increase prices in yen to absorb the higher cost. In addition, since we hold assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies, fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may adversely affect our financial condition presented in Japanese yen through foreign currency translation. While we take measures to reduce the risks from fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, such measures may not be effective.
Our primary sources of funds are cash flows from operations, borrowings from banks and other institutional lenders, and funding from capital markets, such as offerings of commercial paper and other debt securities, as well as equity securities. We need liquid funds to pay our operating expenses, the principal of and interest on our debt and dividends on our capital stock. We also need long-term financing to fund, among other things, capital expenditures and research and development expenses. We currently believe our cash flows from operations, borrowings from banks and other institutional lenders and funding from the capital markets can provide sufficient funding for our operations and other liquidity needs. However, a global economic downturn could adversely affect our cash flows from operations, business results and financial condition and may adversely affect our credit ratings. If our ratings are downgraded, our ability to obtain additional financing on terms we consider favorable may be negatively affected.
Our reliance on banks and institutional lenders exposes us to risks related to rising interest rates, and we may need to increase our reliance on external sources of funding. An increased reliance on debt instruments may adversely affect our credit ratings, which might affect our ability to successfully obtain additional financing on terms we consider favorable. The inability to successfully obtain such financing may increase our financing costs, and therefore could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Furthermore, failure of one or more of our major lenders or a decision by one or more of them to change the terms and conditions of their loans or to stop lending to us could have an adverse effect on our access to funding.
We invest in marketable securities to maintain or promote our business or other relationships with other companies. These marketable securities are exposed to the risk of declining stock market prices. Such declines may require that we write down equity securities that we hold. Further, contractual and other obligations may require us to maintain our holdings of these securities despite declining share prices and this may lead to material losses.
Our manufacturing operations rely on external suppliers for supplies of materials, parts, components and services of adequate quality and quantity, delivered in a timely manner at a reasonable price. External suppliers may not have sufficient capacity to meet all of our needs during periods of excess demand. Shortages of materials, parts, components and services may cause a sharp rise in their prices. In addition, prices of certain raw materials, parts and components which we purchase in local currencies, principally the U.S. dollar and the euro, could be adversely affected by fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. Increases in the market price of petroleum and other materials, such as copper, steel, synthetic resins, rare metals and rare-earth minerals, can increase our production costs and may adversely affect our results of operations. Conversely, decreases in commodity prices, such as for raw materials, parts and components, can result in write-downs of inventory.
If natural disasters disrupt the operations of our suppliers and damage supply chains, it may adversely affect our production. Although we generally maintain multiple sources of supply and work closely with our suppliers to avoid supply-related problems, such problems, including shortages and delays, may continue to occur, which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We enter into a substantial number of long-term contracts, particularly in connection with the construction of infrastructure systems. When the outcome of a construction can be estimated reliably, we recognize revenue and expenses by reference to the stage of completion of the contract activity. In this case, we recognize revenue in an amount equal to estimated total revenue from the arrangement multiplied by the percentage that costs incurred to date bear to estimated total costs at completion based upon the most recently available information. When the outcome of a construction cannot be estimated reliably, we recognize revenue only to the extent of contract costs incurred that it is probable will be recoverable, and recognize contract costs as expenses in the period in which such costs are incurred. The revenue recognition for such long-term contracts requires us to make significant assumptions about estimates of total contract costs, remaining costs to completion, total contract revenues, contract risks and other factors. We charge any anticipated losses on fixed price contracts to operations when we are able to estimate such losses. While we employ our best judgment based on available information, there can be no assurance that these estimates will, ultimately, prove to be correct. We regularly review these estimates and adjust them as we deem necessary. Fluctuations in costs can occur for a variety of reasons, many of which are beyond our control. In addition, we or our counterparties may cancel these contracts. These factors would require us to revise our initial assumptions regarding a particular contract, and may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We make transactions with diverse customers and suppliers in Japan and other countries. We sell our products to certain customers on credit and pay in advance for products or services provided by certain suppliers. While we take measures to manage counterparty credit risk, such as regularly monitoring credit conditions of such customers or suppliers and setting a limit on transaction amount according to their credit conditions, credit deterioration or failure of one or more of them could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Oversupply in the markets in which we compete may lead to declines in sales prices, revenues and profitability. In addition, adjustment to demand may force us to dispose of excess supply or obsolete equipment or reduce production, which can result in losses. For example, the imbalance between supply and demand in construction machinery and automotive equipment industries and a resultant deterioration in market conditions could negatively affect our businesses, financial condition and results of operations.
New technologies are rapidly emerging in the segments in which we conduct business, with the pace of technological innovation. The development of new and advanced technologies, the continuous, timely and cost-effective incorporation of such technologies into products and services and the effective marketing of such products and services are indispensable to remaining competitive. While introducing such products and services requires significant resource commitment to research and development, there can be no assurance that our research and development will be successful. Failure in our endeavors to develop and incorporate such advanced technologies into products and services in a timely manner, or to achieve market acceptance for such products and services, may negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We believe recruiting and retaining additional people who are highly skilled in connection with our operations is indispensable to remaining competitive. However, the number of skilled personnel is limited and the competition for attracting and maintaining such personnel is intense. We cannot ensure that we will be able to successfully attract new or maintain our current skilled personnel.
We are subject to intense competition in many of the markets in which we operate, and this may adversely affect our results of operations. The industrial sectors and business lines in which we are engaged are experiencing increasingly intense competition. We compete with diverse competitors ranging from huge global corporations to specialized companies. Competitors are increasingly manufacturing products, including sophisticated electronic products, and developing IT services in low-cost jurisdictions. Low-cost manufacturing and the globalization of world markets have accelerated the commoditization of certain products or services, which has resulted in increasingly intense price competition for many of our products. To succeed in this competitive environment, we believe that our products and services must be price competitive. The commoditization of such products affects our ability to set prices for our products. If we are unable to charge comparable prices to those of our competitors, our competitiveness and overall profitability may be harmed. On the other hand, charging comparable prices to those of our competitors may require us to sell products and services at a loss. Our products and services must also be competitive in terms of engineering sophistication, quality and brand value. We must introduce our products and services to the markets in a timely manner. There can be no assurance that the products or services that we offer will be competitive. The failure of such products or services to be competitive may negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business strategy seeks to build our business portfolio and achieve a stable and profitable business structure in part by:
Our restructuring efforts may not be implemented in a timely manner or at all, including due to governmental regulations, employment issues or a lack of demand in the M&A market for businesses we may seek to sell. In addition, we have listed subsidiaries and from time to time the interests of these listed subsidiaries' shareholders may conflict with our interests. Such conflicts of interest may result in difficulties in timely implementing group-wide policies, including mergers, company splits and other similar transactions to which the listed subsidiaries are parties. Restructuring efforts may also bring about unintended consequences, such as negative customer or employee perceptions, and have caused and may continue to cause us to incur significant expenses and other costs, including additional impairment losses on our fixed assets and intangible assets, write-offs of inventory and losses on the disposal of fixed assets and losses related to the sale of securities.
Current and future restructuring efforts may be unsuccessful or less successful than we presently anticipate and may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We use the equity-method to account for a number of associates and joint ventures. If one or more of such associates or joint ventures, accounted for using the equity-method, records a loss during a given period, we must record that loss in a manner proportionate to our ownership interest in our consolidated financial statements. In addition, if the carrying amount of our equity-method investments in associates or joint ventures is below the recoverable amount of the investments, we could be required to record an impairment loss.
We seek to expand our business, including our Social Innovation Business, in overseas markets as part of our business strategy. Through such overseas expansion, we aim to increase our revenues, reduce our costs and improve profitability. In many of these markets, we face barriers in the form of long-standing relationships between our potential customers and their local suppliers. In addition, various factors in foreign countries where we operate may adversely affect our overseas business activities. These factors include:
Because of these factors, there can be no assurance that we will be able to achieve the aims of our overseas growth strategy. This may adversely affect our business growth prospects and results of operations.
We implement "the Hitachi Smart Transformation Project," which promotes cost reductions in all activities of our value chain by thoroughly overhauling our cost structure across the Group. We seek to stabilize earnings and generate cash flows by improving our management efficiency through the Project. The Project may be less successful than we currently anticipate. Even if the Project is successful, there is no assurance that we will be able to sustain or increase profitability.
We depend in part on proprietary technology and our ability to obtain patents, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property rights covering our products, product design, manufacturing processes and software-based services in Japan and other countries. The fact that we hold such intellectual property rights does not ensure that they will provide a competitive advantage to us. Various parties may challenge, invalidate or circumvent our patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights. There can be no assurance that claims allowed on any future patents will be sufficiently broad to protect our technology. Effective patent, copyright and trade secret protection may be unavailable or limited in some of the markets in which we operate, and our trade secrets may be vulnerable to disclosure or misappropriation by employees, contractors and other persons.
We design many of our products to include software or other intellectual property licenses from third parties. Competitors may not make their protected technology available to us, or may make it available to us only on unfavorable terms and conditions. There can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain a license for such intellectual property if obtained, for economic or other reasons, or that such intellectual property will give us the commercial advantages that we desire.
From time to time, we are sued or receive notices regarding patent and other intellectual property claims. Whether or not these claims have merit, they may require significant resources to defend against and may divert management attention from our business and operations and result in harm to our reputation. In addition, a successful infringement claim and our inability to obtain the license for the infringed technology or substitute similar non-infringing technology may adversely affect our business.
We face risks of being involved in litigation and alternative dispute resolution and regulatory investigation and actions in connection with our operations. Lawsuits or any other legal procedures for resolving disputes and regulatory actions may seek payment of large, indeterminate amounts or otherwise limit our operations, and their existence and magnitude may remain unknown for substantial periods of time.
In the past several years, we have been the subject of several investigations of alleged antitrust violations in relation to certain product markets in Japan, Europe and North America, etc. and received claims for damages from our customers, etc., which may have adverse effects on our financial condition or profitability. See "Consolidated Financial Statements-Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements-(30) Commitments and Contingencies." These investigations or disputes may result in significant penalties or compensation for damages, etc. Such substantial legal liability or regulatory action could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, reputation and credibility.
In addition, our business activities are subject to various governmental regulations in countries where we operate, which include investment approvals, export regulations, tariffs, antitrust, anti-bribery, intellectual property, consumer and business taxation, foreign trade and exchange controls, and environmental and recycling requirements. These regulations limit, and other new or amended regulations may further limit, our business activities or increase operating costs. In addition, the enforcement of such regulations, including the imposition of fines or surcharges for violation of such regulations, may adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, reputation and credibility.
We increasingly provide products and services utilizing sophisticated technologies, including but not limited to components of power stations. Reliance on external suppliers reduces our control over quality assurance. The occurrence of defects in our products and services could negatively affect our reputation for quality of products and services, expose us to liability for damages caused by such defects and negatively affect our ability to sell certain products. A significant product defect could adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and future business prospects.
We have many facilities, including our R&D facilities, manufacturing facilities and our headquarters in Japan. Historically, Japan has experienced numerous natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. Natural disasters in the future may have a significantly adverse affect on an array of our corporate activities, from production to sales. We also have overseas facilities in Asia, the U.S. and Europe, which are also subject to similar natural disasters. Natural disasters in each of the areas may cause damage on certain of our plants and offices and the operations of our suppliers and customers. Such significant natural disasters may directly damage or destroy our facilities, which could disrupt our operations, delay new production and shipments of existing inventory or result in costly repairs, replacements or other costs, all of which would result in significant losses. Furthermore, even if such significant natural disasters do not directly affect our facilities, they could result in disruptions in distribution channels or supply chains. The spread of infectious diseases and geopolitical and social instability, such as terrorism, crime, civil disturbance and conflict, etc., may also disrupt our operations, render our employees unable to work, reduce consumer demand for our products or disrupt our supply and distribution channels. In addition, we are not insured against all potential losses, and even losses that insurance covers may not be fully covered and may be subject to challenges of or delays in payment. Direct and indirect disruption of our operations as a result of natural disasters or other events could have a negative impact on our operating activities, results of operations and financial condition.
With the increased importance of information systems to our operating activities, disruptions in such systems due to computer viruses and other factors could have a negative impact on our operating activities, results of operations and financial condition.
We maintain and manage personal information obtained from our customers, as well as confidential information relating to our technology, research and development, or R&D, production, marketing and business operations and those of our customers and clients, in various forms. Although we have implemented controls to protect the confidentiality of such information, there can be no assurance that such controls will be effective. Unauthorized disclosures of such information could subject us to complaints or lawsuits for damages or could otherwise have a negative impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, reputation and credibility.
We have a significant amount of employee retirement benefit costs that we derive from actuarial valuations based on a number of assumptions. Inherent in these valuations are key assumptions used in estimating pension costs including mortality, withdrawal and retirement rates, changes in wages and the discount rate. We are required to make judgments regarding the key assumptions by taking into account various factors including personnel demographics, market conditions and expected trends in interest rates. Although management believes that its key assumptions are reasonable in light of the various underlying factors, there can be no assurance that the key assumptions will correspond to actual results. If our key assumptions differ from actual results, the consequent deviation of actual pension costs from estimated costs may have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. A decrease in the discount rate may result in an increase in the amount of projected benefit obligations. In addition, we may change these key assumptions, such as the discount rate. Changes in key assumptions may also have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The rights of shareholders under Japanese law to take actions, including voting their shares, receiving dividends and distributions, bringing derivative actions, examining our accounting books and records and exercising appraisal rights are available only to shareholders of record. Because the depositary, through its custodian agents, is the record holder of the shares underlying the American Depositary Shares, or ADSs, only the depositary can exercise those rights in connection with the deposited shares. The depositary will make efforts to vote the shares underlying ADSs in accordance with the instructions of ADS holders and will pay dividends and distributions collected from us as and to the extent provided in the deposit agreement. However, ADS holders will not be able to bring derivative actions, examine our accounting books and records, or exercise appraisal rights through the depositary.
We are incorporated in Japan with limited liability. A significant portion of our assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be more difficult for investors to enforce against us judgments obtained in U.S. courts predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the federal securities laws of the United States or judgments obtained in other courts outside Japan. There is doubt as to the enforceability in Japanese courts, in original actions or in actions for enforcement of judgments of U.S. courts, of civil liabilities predicated solely upon the federal securities laws of the United States.
The Companies Act allows companies to establish a "unit" of shares for the purpose of exercising voting rights at the general meetings of shareholders. Under our articles of incorporation, one unit of our shares is composed of 1,000 shares, equivalent to 100 ADSs. Each unit of our shares has one vote. A holder who owns shares or ADSs in other than multiples of 1,000 or 100, respectively, will own less than a whole unit (i.e., for the portion constituting fewer than 1,000 shares, or fewer than 100 ADSs). Our articles of incorporation, in accordance with the Companies Act, impose significant restrictions on the rights of holders of shares constituting less than a whole unit, which include restrictions on the right to vote, to attend a shareholders meeting and to bring derivative actions. In addition, less than whole unit shares cannot be traded on Japanese stock markets. Under the unit share system, holders of our shares constituting less than one unit have the right to require us to purchase their shares and the right to require us to sell them additional shares to create a whole unit of 1,000 shares. However, holders of our ADSs are unable to withdraw underlying shares representing less than one unit and, as a practical matter, are unable to require us to purchase those underlying shares. The unit share system, however, does not affect the transferability of ADSs, which may be transferred in lots of any number of whole ADSs.
We may issue additional shares in the future within the unissued portion of our authorized share capital and sell shares held as treasury stock, generally without shareholder vote unless the subscription or sale price is significantly lower than the market price. Issuances and sales of our shares in the future may be at prices below the prevailing market prices and may be dilutive.
Market prices for our ADSs may fall if the value of the yen declines against the U.S. dollar. In addition, the amount of cash dividends or other cash payments made to holders of ADSs will decline if the value of the yen declines against the dollar.