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No. 366, March 2000

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American Companies in Japan


In the second expansion of their relationship, LIGHTPATH TECHNOLOGIES, INC., a manufacturer of optical products for the communications component industry, gave HIKARI GLASS CO., LTD. the right to produce products based on the Albuquerque, New Mexico firm's proprietary technologies, including its automated laser polishing and laser fusion processes. Hikari Glass' Asian marketing territory also was extended to include the People's Republic of China. The two companies tied up in March 1997 when LightPath tapped Hikari Glass, a maker of high-end optical lenses and prisms, to supply raw materials for its Gradium optical glass process. Then, in May 1998, the U.S. business gave the NIKON CORP. affiliate the right to distribute in Japan as well as in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan its Gradium glass products with their unique light-bending properties.

MOTOROLA INC. has tied up with a second Japanese manufacturer of business forms and labels as it continues to promote its BiStatix RF identification technology as a replacement for bar codes. Last fall, Motorola and TOPPAN FORMS CO., LTD. agreed to codevelop and comarket "smart" label solutions incorporating the breakthrough BiStatix RFID technology (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 36). Its new codevelopment and comarketing partner is DAI NIPPON PRINTING CO., LTD., the world's largest printer. The expected results of both alliances are paper-based products containing information stored in chips that can be read and modified through a wireless interface. Tags based on BiStatix technology are scheduled to become commercially available from both companies sometime this year. Motorola claims several advantages for its smart labels over earlier generations of products enabled by RFID technology. Near the top of the list is cost. At less than an estimated 50 cents each, BiStatix labels will be half the price of other RFID labels. Moreover, BiStatix smart labels are readable even if they are folded, crumpled or ripped, and they can be printed on paper and other nonconductive surfaces using existing printing processes.

The golf craze in Japan might be over, but as the world's second-largest golf market after the United States, that country still commands the attention of U.S. equipment manufacturers. Premium golf club supplier ADAMS GOLF CO., for one, has established a wholly owned subsidiary to obtain direct feedback on its R&D efforts and to achieve greater control over its marketing message and distribution channels. The Plano, Texas company is the maker of the Tight Lies family of fairway woods, the SC Series Spin Control drivers and the Faldo Series Wedges.

With sales in FY 1999 predicted to be 29 percent below the year-earlier total, ACUSHNET CO.'s subsidiary is restructuring its golf club business in the hope of getting back on a growth track. Its Cobra brand of clubs is targeted at the midlevel golfer. He or she represents roughly 80 percent of the player population in Japan, but this large group is made up mostly of middle-age and older people. To better accommodate their needs, New Bedford, Massachusetts-headquartered Acushnet has brought out a new line of clubs under the CX1 brand. Moreover, next year, it will introduce irons and woods designed and manufactured specifically for the typical Japanese player. In the meantime, Acushnet's marketing unit is assigning sales people to four regions of the country in order to develop new distribution channels.

The fallout from the restructuring of NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. extends even to its advertising agencies. Japan's number-two automotive maker spends some $917.4 million a year on worldwide advertising, but executives of new owner RENAULT S.A. have complained that those outlays are not buying the brand image that the company needs. In response, HAKUHODO INC., which generates roughly $275.2 million in Nissan billings annually, is in talks with OMNICOM GROUP INC., the world's top ad agency and one of the companies that does ad work for the car and truck builder overseas, about tying up in order to implement the global brand strategy that Nissan wants. The two reportedly are weighing the formation of co-owned but separate units in Japan, the United States and Europe to roll out integrated Nissan campaigns in those regions.

DISPLAYSEARCH, an Austin, Texas market research and consulting firm that specializes in the fast- expanding flat-panel display business, has opened an office in Japan, the source of much of the activity in this field. With an in-country presence, DisplaySearch says, it will be positioned to provide even more detailed, accurate and insightful Japan market intelligence to its 350 clients.

The rapid growth of e-commerce and other Internet-based activities in Japan is starting to attract American companies that can collect market information and analyze it for clients. One of those firms is HARRIS INTERACTIVE, the sponsor of the well-known Harris Poll. The Rochester, New York company formed a Tokyo subsidiary with minority (20 percent) partner M&A CREATE INC., a marketing consulting firm, to undertake Internet-based market research projects for companies there. As elsewhere, Harris Interactive will perform this work by using a data base of on-line panelists, expanded to include Japanese individuals, and its proprietary technology. The joint venture also will conduct research in the United States and in other countries for Japanese clients.

As of April 1, the Tokyo subsidiary of KPMG LLP will have 120 people on staff versus 70 at present to advise clients in the broad field of e-business. The expanded personnel resources will result from the merger of the IT division of KPMG CONSULTING LLC's subsidiary with KPMG GLOBAL SOLUTION K.K. The reorganized company expects much of its work to come from helping Japanese companies make the transition to e-commerce, although its expertise extends to information systems installation and application service provider projects.

Companies interested in on-line advertising and Web marketing in Japan have a new source of help. MEDIA METRIX, INC., the pioneer of Internet and digital media measurement, opened a wholly owned subsidiary in Tokyo. The organization, its New York City parent says, will provide comprehensive, real-time meter-based Internet and digital media measurement products and services tailored where necessary to the needs of Japanese clients and the Japanese market. Media Metrix states that its key advantage in breaking into the local market is that it already has developed, tested and produced data utilizing its kanji meter. Consequently, its subsidiary can ensure the highest-quality data and the most representative sample.

LYRA RESEARCH, INC., a provider of publications, market information and custom research services involving the imaging industry, appointed consumer market researcher JDS CO., LTD. as its exclusive sales and marketing representative. The Newtonville, Massachusetts firm has more than 2,000 customers around the world for such publications as The Hard Copy Observer, which tracks the printer industry. Presumably, a significant number of subscribers are in Japan, given the international standing of that country's manufacturers of imaging equipment.

Outsourcing still is in its infancy in Japan despite a greater willingness among big companies to hand over to outsiders responsibility for their computer systems. Despite this reality, the subsidiary of PRICEWATER-HOUSECOOPERS LLP has set up an operation to provide administrative support to clients in the areas of finance, accounting and personnel. The thrust of this initiative is for companies to transfer their administrative personnel to PWC, which will retrain them so that they can work for other clients as well as for their original employer. The big accounting and consulting firm hopes to arrange outsourcing deals with three or four firms in the first year and to add between 200 and 300 employees from each to its personnel roster.

An exchange rate of ¥109=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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