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No. 350, November 1998

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American Companies in Japan


The world's top manufacturer of fiber-optic cables for voice, data and video applications, Hickory, North Carolina-based SIECOR CORP., has opened the Japan Optical Cable Processing Center in Urayasu, Chiba prefecture in cooperation with KANDENKO CO., LTD., one of Japan's biggest electrical engineering firms. Under a five-year deal announced at the opening, the leading cable installer will process Siecor cables at JPC, thereby allowing Japanese customers to receive products tailored to their requirements within a week rather than the five to six weeks it previously took to fill orders from the United States. Siecor, equally owned by CORNING INC. and SIEMENS AG, has had a local sales and engineering office since 1986. That presence, the company says, has enabled it to become a key supplier to Japan's fiber-optic and telephony and cable markets.

SMITH FIBERGLASS PRODUCTS CO. of Little Rock, Arkansas has given DAICEL CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES, LTD. the right to import and market its Grey Streak electrical conduit for protecting cables. The fiberglass-reinforced epoxy conduit can be buried or used in exposed places. Smith Fiberglass Products claims that its conduit not only is easier to install and longer lasting than conduit made from steel or polyvinyl chloride but also outperforms these alternatives. Daicel hopes to develop the Grey Streak product into an $8.3 million annual business after three years.

New on the market from LOCTITE CORP.'s subsidiary is a pair of anti-seize agents. Product 767 is a heavy-duty, high-temperature lubricating thread compound for heavy- pressure applications, including boiler and oven parts, jet engines and industrial turbines. The same general description applies to Loctite's nickel anti-seize lubricant 771. However, it contains metals, oils and graphite materials that cannot be burned away or removed by slow-moving parts, making it suitable, for example, as a lubricant for drop forge dies and catalyst bed and reaction chamber supports. The Rocky Hill, Connecticut manufacturer is projecting combined sales of $826,400 for the two compounds in the first year of marketing.

A wax that manufacturer UNISOURCE WORLDWIDE, INC. says can cut floor maintenance costs for commercial and industrial establishments by 30 percent because it lasts for three months rather than the usual one month is available exclusively from ACCOSS CO., LTD. The Tokyo-based building maintenance company plans to make the Berwyn, Pennsylvania company's Wet Look 80 product the basis of a franchised floor cleaning business. Accoss expects to sign up 50 or so franchisees in the first year that, in its planning, will have contracts to maintain 900,000 square feet of space.

A fire preventer made by NOCHAR, INC. is being being sold by SATAKE CO., LTD. of Fukushima prefecture. The Cicero, Indiana company's Nochar's Fire Preventer, or NFP for short, is a nontoxic, nonhazardous fire retardant for unsealed natural fiber materials, including cotton, wool, silk, rayon, linen, paper, cellulosic fibers and wood. Generally sprayed on, the product uses water as a carrier to penetrate the fiber. The water then is dried off or driven off, leaving the retardant in place. Typical uses for NFP in the United States include everything from on-site treatment of construction projects to packaging to uniforms. Satake has used Nochar's technology to add fire retardant properties to board products made completely from recycled paper.

The 1998 home run derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa has sparked greater interest in major league baseball among kids in Japan. TOPPS CO. INC. hopes to capitalize on this enthusiasm by giving midsized toy maker EPOCH CO., LTD. exclusive rights to import and distribute its MLB trading cards. The English- language cards, which cost about $3.30 per bag, will be available initially at 67 outlets, but the Tokyo company plans to expand the number of sales points. Next spring, Epoch will introduce a higher-quality line of baseball cards from Brooklyn's Topps under the Stadium Club name for $4.95 a bag.

With golf equipment no longer a growth business in the lean 1990s, SPALDING SPORTS WORLDWIDE, an ACUSHNET CO. firm, changed course in Japan at the end of October. Its subsidiary stopped marketing, giving OSAWA SHOKAI CO., LTD. the right to import and distribute its golf products, including Top Flight golf balls. Osawa Shokai is a knowledgeable partner because, until recently, it handled sales of the Foot-Joy line of golf shoes and golf gloves for another Acushnet-affiliated company (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 28). Spalding products are now sold at roughly 1,500 outlets across Japan. Osawa Shokai is looking for sales of $17.4 million in FY 1999 and $24.8 million in FY 2002.

In an attempt to spur slow sales of movies on digital video discs, TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT JAPAN INC., in cooperation with DVD player manufacturers MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP., plans to start renting DVD players and DVD movies at some 200 video rental outlets across the country. The TWEJ movie lineup will encompass roughly 130 titles. SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. has similar plans. Sales of DVD players and media have not lived up to their advance billing, in large part because of still high equipment costs.

Through a private placement, business publisher TOYO KEIZAI INC. will acquire a small (approximately 5 percent) stake in the joint venture between mutual fund rater MORNINGSTAR, INC. and SOFTBANK CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 29). The partners want to tap Toyo Keizai's expertise in projecting corporate earnings, while the publisher hopes to become more familiar with mutual funds, which are becoming a hot investment pick in Japan.

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

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