Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 354, March 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


SOFTWARE AND INFORMATION SERVICES

The skyrocketing prices of Internet stocks have given SOFTBANK CORP. the financial means to expand its already substantial portfolio of investments in American Internet companies. Its U.S. holding company sold 3 million shares of search engine provider YAHOO! CORP. for $410 million. SOFTBANK HOLDINGS INC. is using the proceeds to capitalize a fund that will invest in late-stage private Internet companies as well as in early-stage public Internet businesses. The sale of the Yahoo! shares, which generated a capital gain of roughly $390 million, left Softbank Holdings as the largest single shareholder in the Sunnyvale, California firm but with a 28 percent stake versus its former 30 percent or so interest.

Right before announcing its Internet company investment fund, SOFTBANK HOLDINGS INC. acquired a minority position in MENTUM CORP. The Hartford, Connecticut start-up is using the money to launch personalized, objective on-line financing planning services at a price that most investors can afford. The size of Softbank Holdings' stake in Mentum was not disclosed, but the investment gave the company the right to buy up to 15 percent of the e-commerce firm.

The Private Equity Department of MITSUI & CO., LTD. participated in the second round of private financing for PANGEA SYSTEMS, INC. This Oakland, California company provides software for bioinformatics — the application of information technology to the R&D operations of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Mitsui's involvement with Pangea is expected to help the company bring its technology to Japan.

Japan's largest independent venture capital company, TECHNO-VENTURE CO., LTD., joined in a second round of venture financing for ADKNOWLEDGE that raised $14 million. The Palo Alto, California firm provides end-to- end management services to companies and ad agencies advertising on the Web. It currently has more than 225 clients.

A way to keep track of information of interest in electronic mail and on Web sites is coming from FUJI-TSU SOFTWARE CORP. in the form of an intelligent information assistant. Knowledge Browser, designed specifically for enterprise users, monitors every piece of e-mail a person receives as well as Web sites visited and automatically analyzes, summarizes and indexes these files according to topics relevant to the user. This capability extends to all e-mail and Web pages, not just those bookmarked. Knowledge Browser also has the unique ability to highlight new information on a Web site used before. San Jose, California-based Fujitsu Software has listed Knowledge Browser at $80.

TradeLink, the Internet commerce product from HITACHI COMPUTER PRODUCTS (AMERICA), INC., will support Enterprise Java Beans and DCOM (distributed component object models) by the fourth quarter of this year. The software now is compliant with CORBA (common object request broker architecture). The expanded support will give customers the flexibility to seamlessly integrate Internet commerce implementations across the supply chain, regardless of existing software applications, operating systems, hardware platforms or data base applications.

Extending the functionality of TPBroker, its tool for deploying enterprise CORBA applications, HITACHI COMPUTER PRODUCTS (AMERICA), INC. announced Hitachi Enterprise Application Manager. HiEM is said to give information technology managers an easy and flexible way to manage, administer, monitor and troubleshoot distributed, CORBA-based applications. More specifically, HiEM provides key performance, event and change management functions, with the results viewable through a Java- based GUI (graphic user interface) management console. The latest TPBroker-related product will be available in the second quarter.

To sharpen the focus of its videogame publishing business, the Redwood City, California unit of ASCII CORP. formed a subsidiary to handle this operation. AGETEC, INC., also located in Redwood City, is staffed by former employees of ASCII ENTERTAINMENT SOFTWARE, INC. It already has seven software titles scheduled for 1999 release, including six for the Sony PlayStation game console and one for the Nintendo 64.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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