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No. 354, March 1999

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American Companies in Japan


As part of its strategy to become the number-one global supplier of products and services to concrete and cement producers, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Grace Construction Products, part of W.R. GRACE & CO., became the majority owner of its joint venture with DENKI KAGAKU KOGYO K.K. The renamed GRACE CHEMICALS K.K. sells admixtures for cement and concrete made by both partners using Tokyo-headquartered Denki Kagaku Kogyo's distribution channels. Japan is second only to the United States as a market for admixtures and ranks first in terms of admixture usage per cubic yard of concrete.

Bullet-resistant glass for vehicles and buildings manufactured by AMERICAN GLASS PRODUCTS CO. is available in Japan through NORTH GLASS CORP. The Knoxville, Tennessee company's product is composed of glass sheets and plastic films laminated together in thicknesses varying between 15 mm and 65 mm. AGP claims that its glass represents the state of the art in terms of optics and ballistic performance. Outfitting a car, truck or other vehicle with bullet-resistant glass will cost $7,700 on average. Tokyo-based North Glass, which AGP named as its distributor last October, is looking for sales of $1.7 million in the first year.

Upscale office furniture manufacturer STEELCASE, INC. has released several lines of products designed specifically for the Japanese market through its subsidiary. The new products, which are marketed by one of the Grand Rapids, Michigan company's distributors, include desks, tables and integrated modular units. Steelcase hopes that these additions to its lineup will generate sales of $4.3 million in the first year.

Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner, already available in more than 30 countries around the world, now is on store shelves in Japan. The subsidiary of BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB CO., the parent of CLAIROL, INC., has been marketing locally developed shampoos and conditioners, but it expects the Herbal Essences line to develop quickly into a top seller, with sales anywhere from $34.2 million to $42.7 million in the first year.

The rapid aging of Japan's population and an underdeveloped support infrastructure make that country a natural for the type of services provided by HOME INSTEAD SENIOR CARE, the largest American provider of nonmedical companionship and home-care services for the elderly. The Omaha, Nebraska company has signed a master franchise licensing agreement with PRIME HEALTH CARE CORP. The Tokyo firm expects to have its first franchises in operation in the near term. Their at-home and respite-care services will be available for as little as a few hours a week or as many as 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typical services offered by Home Instead Senior Care providers include meal preparation, light housework, transportation, errands and companionship.

The fairly new Tokyo-based facility management subsidiary of JOHNSON CONTROLS, INC. and TOKYO BISO KOGYO CORP., Japan's largest independently owned building maintenance company, have launched an integrated facility management business targeted at the commercial building market. The partnership combines Johnson Controls' technology and expertise in this field with TBK's personnel, infrastructure and customer base. The two hope to capitalize on the emerging trend among major Japanese corporations to outsource broad facility management responsibilities to a single supplier both to reduce costs and to improve building performance. Johnson Controls acquired a 34 percent interest in TBK last fall (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, p. 30).

WAM!NET INC., which operates managed media networks for graphic arts businesses in the United States and Europe, is in the process of forming a company with SUMITOMO CORP. to market, sell and support the WAM!NET digital delivery network in Japan. The Minneapolis firm, which will be the majority owner of the self-named joint venture, helps printers, advertising agencies, prepress companies and big corporations save time and money by enabling them to transfer their large digital graphics files to their business partners in minutes via the WAM!NET network. Since December, some of Japan's top ad agencies and printers have been testing WAM!NET's digital networking services. The company is an affiliate of MCI WORLDCOM, INC.

Starting this month, the subsidiary of information technology industry tracker and analyst GARTNER GROUP, INC. will put more emphasis on providing research and consulting services for IT users. In the year through September 1998, about 70 percent of the local unit's roughly $25.6 million in revenues came from computer makers, software companies and other IT vendors. To support the new thrust, Gartner, which has some 40 analysts in Japan, will hire more people locally. With the added attention to IT users, the Stamford, Connecticut company hopes that its Japanese arm in time will contribute about 10 percent of its total revenues versus 5 percent or so currently.

An alliance between STANFORD RESOURCES, INC. and TECHNO SYSTEMS RESEARCH CO., LTD. brings together the two leaders in covering developments in the LCD business. They will develop a quarterly report that analyzes the world supply and demand situation for LCDs. The Tokyo partner, which maintains an extensive production data base, will contribute information on the supply of LCDs from plants in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, while San Jose, California-based Stanford Resources will furnish information and analysis on the demand for LCD-based products throughout the world on a regional basis.

A tie-up with TOKYU TOURIST CORP., one of Japan's five biggest travel agencies, will enable ROSENBLUTH INTERNATIONAL INC. to extend the services provided by its lone Japanese office in Tokyo. The Philadelphia firm specializes in arranging flights and accommodations for business customers while enabling clients to pay in whatever currency and way his or her company indicates. Tokyu Tourist will be able to use Rosenbluth's payment settlement system. The American company also will recommend the services of its partner to foreign corporate customers operating in Japan.

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

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