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No. 364, January 2000

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Japanese Companies in the US


Work will start in the spring of 2000 on a polycarbonate concrete admixture factory at NA INDUSTRIES, INC. in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Production at the 11,000-ton-a-year plant is slated for a year later. NIPPON SHOKUBAI CO., LTD.'s product, which is designed to make concrete stronger and more durable, requires less water than standard mixtures. In two or three years, Nippon Shokubai believes that its subsidiary can develop concrete admixtures in a $14.6 million to $19.4 million annual business. TAIHEIYO CEMENT CORP. also thinks that the U.S. admixture market has potential (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 363, December 1999, p. 14). For the last 11 years, NA Industries has made superabsorbent polymers. It is in the process of building a plant for the production of acrylic acid, a SAP raw material, in Pasadena, Texas with ELF ATOCHEM NORTH AMERICA, INC. The factory is scheduled for completion in late 2001.

SHOWA TECHNOCOAT, LTD.'s Clear Vision CV-1 will go on sale in the United States in the coming months. The product is a dust-resistant and water-dis-persing coating that can be applied to glass, plastic, painted and metal surfaces. CV-1 will be marketed by WEST BARON INC. of Scottsdale, Arizona, which was formed by the Tokyo-based manufacturer and other investors. Showa Technocoat will ship CV-1 concentrate to an unnamed American company. That firm will dilute it about 50 times and then package the liquid for sale. Roughly 1 million bottles are expected to be sold in the first year of marketing.

Gaining share in the U.S. market for golf equipment, particularly clubs, has been much harder than BRIDGESTONE SPORTS CO., LTD. expected despite a 15-year effort. The company's Covington, Georgia subsidiary consequently has revamped its marketing strategy. Rather than targeting intermediate players, it is refocusing its Precept brand toward the premium end of the business with a line of clubs and balls engineered specifically for Americans who are tour and club professionals and low-handicap amateurs. Last August, Bridgestone Sports introduced a titanium driver for this group of golfers. This club will be joined in February 2000 by Precept-brand irons and wedges and in March by a pair of fairway woods. The MC Tour Premium golf ball already is on the market. At present, roughly 90 percent of Bridgestone Sports' golf equipment sales in the United States are generated by balls.

ZIFF-DAVIS INC., in line with the strategy of parent SOFTBANK CORP., is shedding operations to concentrate resources on Internet-related businesses. It has agreed to sell ZIFF-DAVIS PUBLISHING CO. to a private equity investment firm for $780 million. The company, which had revenues of $782 million in 1998, is the largest U.S. publisher of magazines devoted to coverage of the computer and Internet industries, with PC Week, PC Computing and Yahoo! Internet Life among its titles. That was a primary reason for Softbank's 1996 purchase of Ziff-Davis since it had the same position in Japan's publishing world. According to the terms of the sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2000, ZDNET INC., the Ziff-Davis Internet unit, will continue to use content from the various magazines for five years. At the same time, the buyer of the publishing company will not be able to tap the Internet to distribute information from the 80-odd titles it is acquiring without ZDNet's permission. Softbank owns approximately 70 percent of Ziff-Davis.

An exchange rate of ¥103=$1.00 was used in this report. aaa

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