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No. 350, November 1998

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Japanese Companies in the US


MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. is in the process of restructuring its U.S. operations to better focus them on businesses that are key to the electronics multinational, including digital television, computer hardware and software, and telecommunications. It is folding its 25-year-old American holding company, MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC AMERICA, INC., and opening in its place The Americas Corporate Office as part of Cypress, California-headquartered MITSUBISHI ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., the largest MELCO subsidiary. The new office is responsible for representing the company's businesses in North and South America. In addition, Mitsubishi Electric will close the Audio/Visual division of MITSUBISHI CONSUMER ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC. and form a company, also located in Irvine, California, to handle production and sales of projection TVs and display monitor manufacturing in Mexico. MELCO also will streamline its cellular telephone operations by closing ASTRONET CORP. of Lake Mary, Florida and MCEA's Cellular Mobile Telephone division and establishing comparable functions within MITSUBISHI WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, INC. of Duluth, Georgia (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 8). Among other previously reported changes, MELCO, which is ending U.S.-based DRAM wafer fabrication, assembly and test, has formed a semiconductor design group in Durham, North Carolina (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, p. 7).

To ensure that it remains at the forefront of the digital electronics revolution, MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD., via its Princeton, New Jersey- based PANASONIC TECHNOLOGIES, INC. subsidiary, has opened the Panasonic Digital Concepts Center. The mandate of the Cupertino, California organization is to identify promising Silicon Valley start-ups in such areas as home networking, Internet appliances, next-generation computing and electronic commerce and then invest in them. For that purpose, MEI has committed an initial $50 million. PDCC also has the flexibility to provide incubation services for start-ups and to hire engineers to work on R&D projects on a contract basis.

A third Japanese company has obtained a nonexclusive license to utilize OVONIC BATTERY CO.'s proprietary nickel metal hydride battery technology and taken a minority position in the Troy, Michigan subsidiary of ENERGY CONVERSION DEVICES, INC. Along with its affiliates, SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD., the world's largest manufacturer of NiMH batteries for consumer products, has the right to make NiMH batteries for electric scooters and bicycles in Japan and the People's Republic of China for worldwide sale as well as to manufacture NiMH batteries for four-wheel and bigger vehicles assembled in Japan. NiMH batteries have emerged as the battery of choice for producers of electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles in the United States and Japan. Sanyo Electric's fellow licensees and investors in Ovonic Battery are HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD. and SANOH INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 340, January 1998, p. 4). Like them and other partners, Sanyo Electric also will work with Ovonic Battery to expand the vehicle propulsion market in North America and Europe.

An exchange rate of ¥121=$1.00 was used in this report.

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