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No. 365, February 2000

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Japanese Companies in the US


NONELECTRIC MACHINERY

The Nevada Gaming Commission's decision to license KONAMI CO., LTD. and a U.S. subsidiary to manufacture and market casino gaming machines opens up a new line of business for Japan's top supplier of interactive entertainment software. KONAMI GAMING INC., which has been in Las Vegas since 1997, expects to spend some $23.8 million to build a headquarters and a factory in the huge gambling center. The plant's 150 or so employees initially will assemble parts imported from Japan into horse-racing, poker and slot machines. The first of these machines could be delivered to Las Vegas casinos and hotels as soon as the fall. Having scored a breakthrough with the state of Nevada, Konami hopes to be licensed by California, Mississippi, New Jersey and other states as well to supply gaming machines.

A disagreement over price caused NACCO MATERIALS HANDLING GROUP, INC. to scrap a spring 1999 memorandum of understanding with NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. to acquire the beleaguered automotive maker's global forklift truck manufacturing and marketing businesses (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 357, June 1999, pp. 7-8). Nissan says that it will seek another buyer for the lift truck division, which operates plants in Tokyo, Spain and Marengo, Illinois. Executives have not said what might happen if that search proves futile. Portland, Oregon-based NACCO Materials Handling, which ranks second in the international forklift market, makes products for sale under the Hyster and Yale brand names.

KOBELCO CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY (U.S.A.), INC. began shipments of the all- new Dynamic Acera line of hydraulic excavators at the beginning of January. KOBE STEEL, LTD. spent $3.5 million to retool its subsidiary's 11-year-old Calhoun, Georgia factory to make the Dynamic Acera's 210, 250, 290 and 330 models and to expand the ranks of robots to 19. Kobelco Construction has the capacity to turn out 2,400 hydraulic excavators a year.

Electrodischarge machine manufacturer SODICK CO., LTD. established a R&D subsidiary in San Jose, California to help ensure that it is on the cutting edge of machine tool technical developments. The company, which is scheduled to open by the end of March and to have a staff of 15 initially, will focus in particular on CNC systems and supporting software for EDM equipment. It will work closely with its Kanagawa prefecture parent's manufacturing operations and marketing units, which include a wholly owned sales subsidiary in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

Like other machine tool builders hard hit by the slump in capital spending at home, O-M LTD. sees the United States as a revenue offsetter. Japan's top maker of vertical lathes will concentrate sales on compact CNC machines — products used by the thousands of American job shops that support automotive, aircraft and other manufacturers. The Osaka prefecture supplier says that it will use U.S. distributors rather than big Japanese trading companies, machine tool makers' typical sales channel, in order to reach its intended market and to provide customers with better after-sale service.

Now that it has switched to direct marketing of its SMT (surface-mount technology) and semiconductor assembly systems in North America and Europe from OEM sales (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 362, November 1999, p. 9), JUKI CORP. has penciled in a big gain in business in these two regions by FY 2002. One key to achieving its ambitious goal is the introduction of a new line of SMT equipment. The first product in the KE-2000 Series, the KE-2030, will be released in early spring. This twin-head, high-speed chip shooter is equipped with a pair of new multilaser heads, each of which operates four nozzles. The line's second product should be available in May.

Big precision pump manufacturer NIKKISO CO., LTD. has decided to venture out on its own in North America. For years, the company has partnered with cryogenic submerged pump supplier J.C. CARTER CO., INC. on both technology and marketing, with the Costa Mesa, California firm handling sales in the United States and Canada and Nikkiso responsible for the rest of the world. In one sign of its future marketing course, Nikkiso opened a cryogenic test facility in North Las Vegas, Nevada last year (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 353, February 1999, p. 8).

An exchange rate of ¥105=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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