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No. 351, December 1998

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Japanese Companies in the US


The list of Internet ventures that have received financing from SOFTBANK CORP. continues to grow. In its latest move, Japan's top software distributor paid $40 million for a 9.9 percent stake in BUYCOMP.COM CORP., which sells software, computer hardware and peripherals over the Internet. Last summer, a Softbank affiliate acquired a 10.25 percent position in Buycomp.com. The Aliso Viejo, California company said that it would use the Softbank money to expand into new on-line markets. Softbank's Internet-related portfolio also includes on-line stock trader E*TRADE GROUP, INC. (27.2 percent), search engine company YAHOO! CORP. (31 percent), on-line "communities" hoster GEOCITIES CORP. (35 percent) and ZIFF-DAVIS INC. (71 percent), the magazine publisher behind the ZDNet Web site.

SONY MARKETING (JAPAN) INC. and an ITOCHU CORP. company were among the existing institutional and strategic investors in PREVIEW SYSTEMS, INC. to participate in the latest round of financing for the provider of electronic software distribution and digital content distribution infrastructure technologies. Sony Marketing is the Cupertino, California start-up's Japan development partner and the exclusive local distributor of its ZipLock ESD system (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 350, November 1998, p. 22). Preview Systems will use the $8 million in additional financing to back product development and its international expansion. ZipLock already supports nine languages. It soon will allow on-line purchases in Japanese.

In advance of an expected initial public offering by NETOBJECTS, INC., a U.S. unit of MITSUBISHI CORP. bought a small stake in the developer of software tools for Web site construction. The Redwood City, California company is majority-owned by INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. Its second-largest corporate investor is NOVELL, INC., now followed by Mitsubishi. For the last year, the trader has distributed the Japanese-language version of NetObjects Fusion (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 350, November 1998, p. 22).

In a deal that will make its tools for debugging large and complex embedded software applications available outside Japan for the first time, KYOTO MICROCOMPUTER CO., LTD. gave METROWERKS INC. exclusive rights to resell its Partner-ET II ROM (read-only memory) emulators and new miniPartner on-chip debugging hardware. KMC's products support most major 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit processors and are used by many Japanese semiconductor manufacturers for RISC processor embedded development work. San Jose, California-based Metrowerks is the supplier of the popular CodeWarrior integrated development environment solution.

In what would seem like a gamble, Tokyo's GAIO TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD., another embedded tools provider, has opened an office in Silicon Valley to backstop sales of its microcontroller development environment by three distributors. Current plans call for upgrading the branch to a subsidiary in the spring.

A trio of Japanese companies is trying to break into the American market for computer-aided design and manufacturing software, but at least they are sharing the risk among themselves and with an Indian software developer, CAE SOLUTIONS, that has an operation in Stratford, Connecticut. The four have formed AIA SOFTWARE, LLC, also located in Stratford, to develop and market CAD-CAM software in the United States and to come up with Internet-related software for the Japanese market. AIA Software's Japanese partners are ANDOR CO., LTD., a Kobe-headquartered CAD developer (19 percent), CAM developer DATA DESIGN, INC. of Nagoya (9.5 percent) and ROMAN RESEARCH CORP. (35.75 percent), a Chiba prefecture software distributor that will handle marketing for the joint venture. CAE Solutions put up the remaining 35.75 percent of the new company's equity. AIA Software is projecting first-year revenues of $826,400.

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

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