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No. 364, January 2000

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Japanese Companies in the US


In what both sides described as a win-win deal, NIKKISO CO., LTD. acquired the Microtrac particle-size measuring equipment line from a restructuring HONEYWELL INC. for approximately $5.2 million. Japan's top maker of pumps for the chemicals industry had been the exclusive Japanese distributor of Microtrac's laser-based products since 1979. The former Honeywell business will operate as MICROTRAC, INC. with headquarters in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, production facilities in York, Pennsylvania and a sales and service center in Clearwater, Florida. The 20-em-ployee company is projecting 2000 sales at $8 million or so and double that in 2003.

As soon as the spring of 2000, NIKON CORP. could introduce an English-language version of its image analysis support system in the United States. Designed to document deterioration in bridges, tunnels, buildings and other public structures and then to assess the causes and the extent of the damage, the system consists of Nikon's powerful D1 professional digital single-lens reflex camera and its GS-1 image analysis software. A recent series of incidents in Japan in which chunks of concrete from tunnel ceilings have fallen on railroad tracks has boosted sales of the system, which offers several advantages over visual inspection, including time-savings. Nikon expects that America's aging infrastructure will create a similarly strong demand for the product.

In January 2000, TOKKI CORP. will begin exports to the United States and Europe of a system that cleans the coating of optical fibers before they are attached to a connector. The Tokyo maker developed the system five years ago, but foreign interest in it has developed only recently with the surge in the laying of fiber-optical cables. NTT ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY CORP. has been entrusted with sales. Tokki estimates that American and European revenues from the cleaning system will be $582,500 the first year and $1.7 million the following year.

PRECISION SYSTEM SCIENCE CO., LTD., a Tokyo-based supplier of laboratory automation systems geared to the biotechnology field, has opened an office in Pleasanton, California in preparation for the launch of U.S. sales. Marketing should start soon after June 2000 when the office is upgraded to PSS BIO INSTRUMENTS, INC. At the heart of PSS's product line is the company's Magtration Technology, which uses magnetic particles for reaction and detection in various assay methodologies. Among the automated equipment that incorporates the Magtration Technology are nucleic acid extractors, chemiluminescence and bioluminescence immunoassay systems, and bacteria detection systems. PSS has sold some equipment to American companies from headquarters, but it sees an in-country presence as key to building sales.

For the third time in 1999, MARUBENI CORP. invested in a U.S. medical equipment start- up. This time, it was ACCURAY INC., the developer of the CyberKnife SRS (stereotactic radiosurgery system). The $2 million the trader put up gave it a 6.2 percent share of the Sunnyvale, California company. Accuray will use the money to develop more advanced versions of the CyberKnife SRS. This device allows highly focused beams of radiation to be applied to solid cancers while preserving the surrounding normal tissues from the destructive effects of the treatment. Marubeni was a natural investor in Accuray since it has marketing rights to the CyberKnife SRS in Japan and certain other East Asian countries. The other companies in which Marubeni has invested recently are INTUITIVE SURGICAL, INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 358, July 1999, pp. 8-9) and R2 TECHNOLOGY, INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 357, June 1999, p. 9).

FUKUDA DENSHI CO., LTD., Japan's top maker of electrocardiograms as well as a supplier of patient monitoring systems and ultrasonic scanners, will dissolve its indebted Redmond, Washington marketing subsidiary. Sales reportedly have slumped because of competition from lower-priced products. Maintenance on Fukuda Denshi's installed U.S. equipment will continue to be provided by another wholly owned subsidiary also located in Redmond.

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

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