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No. 366, March 2000

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American Companies in Japan


METALS AND FABRICATED PRODUCTS

A second transpacific partnership has announced plans to develop an Internet-based steel marketplace specifically for the domestic steel industry. This group pairs E-STEEL CORP., which launched a B2B e- com-merce site for the global steel industry in September 1999, with MITSUBISHI CORP. and MITSUI & CO., LTD. The trio expects to form a joint venture in April, with the New York City partner having a 19.9 percent stake and each of the trading companies owning a 40.05 percent interest. Their Web site should be operational in July. e-STEEL will contribute to the venture its e-com-merce technology for buying and selling steel over the Internet. Currently, more than 1,200 companies from 65 countries participate in the e-STEEL Exchange. Given the pivotal role of trading companies in Japan's steel market, Mitsubishi and Mitsui hope to capitalize on their connections to sign up 1,500 initial members of the local exchange, centering on other traders, wholesalers and their agencies, processors and end users. Commodity products, including steel sheet, pipe and H-beams, will be the first types of steel available through the Web site. Trading volume, the marketplace's backers project, could reach 5.5 million tons annually within three years. METALSITE, L.P. also plans to bring the efficiencies and the resulting cost savings of on-line trading to Japan's steel industry in a tie-up with traders ITOCHU CORP., MARUBENI CORP. and SUMITOMO CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 365, February 2000, p. 20).

The world's top supplier of stainless steel scrap is moving into the Japanese market and bringing with it its technology for producing less-expensive blended or meltdown stainless steel scrap to replace the clippings and turnings from the production of stainless steel that historically have constituted scrap. ELG METALS, INC. will put up 40 percent of the capital for JS PROCESSING CO., LTD., which will open a plant in Osaka in May to supply meltdown scrap to the Hikari Works of NIPPON STEEL CORP. The Pittsburgh company's partners in the venture are MITSUBISHI CORP. and MITSUI & CO., LTD. (19 percent each), NIPPON STEEL TRADING CO., LTD. (12 percent) and FUJIMOTO METAL CO., LTD. and SANGYO SHINKO CO., LTD. (5 percent each). The latter two firms will operate the Osaka facility. The meltdown scrap produced by JS Processing basically will substitute for what Nippon Steel has been importing from an ELG plant in Houston since last year. However, the joint venture hopes to expand its business beyond this volume — approximately 40,000 tons a year — and to sign up other manufacturers of stainless steel. To do so, JS Processing will have to find a way to overcome the stubborn shortage of stainless steel scrap in Japan.

EDGE TECHNOLOGIES, INC. and its manufacturing unit, ETREMA PRODUCTS, INC., have tied up with MORITEX CORP. on the marketing of and new uses for the Ames, Iowa company's so-called giant magnetostriction alloy. ETREMA's TERFENOL-D is a specially formulated iron-alloy smart material that changes shape in the presence of a magnetic field. That property makes TERFENOL-D suitable for such current applications as sonic and vibration sources, active noise and vibration control systems, and ultrasonic devices. As part of the deal, Tokyo-based Moritex, a manufacturer of fiber optics and machine vision systems, invested $1 million-plus in Edge for a roughly 3 percent stake in the privately owned company.

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