Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 348, September 1998

Issue Index

Japanese Companies in the US


The Bellevue, Washington sales subsidiary of ICOM INC., a manufacturer of radio communications equipment for both amateur use and commercial applications, won a $12 million contract from the Department of Defense for high-performance transceivers to help soldiers communicate during battle simulations. The contract covers 22,000 of the Osaka company's IC- F3S transceivers. The first 1,800 units are scheduled to be delivered in October.

The second-largest North American producer of flat glass, Kingsport, Tennessee-headquartered AFG INDUSTRIES, INC., now is making automotive glass from scratch. The ASAHI GLASS CO., LTD. manufacturer spent $84 million to build a float glass plant in Richmond, Kentucky that can turn out daily 550 tons of the high-quality product required for automotive glass. Previously, AFG Industries bought float glass from competitors like PPG INDUSTRIES, INC. to make automotive sheet while mainly producing glass for windows and other construction uses. The automotive glass goes to another wholly owned Asahi Glass subsidiary, AP TECHNOGLASS CO. of Bellefontaine, Ohio, which makes safety glass for cars and trucks. AFG Industries has seven U.S. plants: Victorville, California; Spring Hill, Kansas; Richmond, Kentucky; Cinnaminson, New Jersey; Church Hill and Kingsport, Tennessee; and Bridgeport, West Virginia. Asahi Glass acquired a minority interest in the company, which also has two Canadian plants, in 1988 and took complete control in 1992.

Using ceramic tile processing technology that it developed, TOTO LTD., Japan's biggest maker of toilets, basins and bathtubs, is moving into a new business in the United States. It will open a company in San Francisco this fall to license to tile manufacturers its optical catalyst super hydrophilic technology, which essentially prevents condensation from forming on tiles. The subsidiary also will sell tiles made with the new process. Toto, which produces toilets and other bathroom fixtures in Atlanta and Morrow, Georgia, sees this diversification move generating $32 million in revenues in five years, including $23 million from licensing fees.

Two Japanese manufacturers of office supplies think there is considerable room for growth in the United States. Tokyo's ZEBRA CO., LTD. is projecting U.S. sales of $34.5 million in FY 1998 and double that in five years. To reach this goal, the company's Edison, New Jersey subsidiary will open a distribution center somewhere on the West Coast next year. Warehouses in the Northeast and in the South also are possibilities. For its part, TOMBOW PENCIL CO., LTD. predicts that U.S. revenues, derived mostly from correction tape, will double in FY 1998 to $9.7 million. The Tokyo-based firm is in the process of moving its Georgia warehouse into a space that is triple the size of the current facility. Meanwhile, writing instruments manufacturer PENTEL CO., LTD. has formed a team at its Torrance, California subsidiary to investigate alternative distribution routes for its products.

Eighteen months after EBARA CORP. agreed with RADIAN INTERNATIONAL LLC to explore the feasibility of building no-waste industrial plants in Southeast Asia, the tie-up has ended. Spokesmen for the Japanese company, a maker of pumps and air blowers that has moved into the environmental field in recent years, attributed this development to DOW CHEMICAL CO.'s sale of the Austin, Texas environmental engineering company and Radian's reorientation under its new owner toward environmental consulting.

An exchange rate of ¥145=$1.00 was used in this report.

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