Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 355, April 1999

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American Companies in Japan


PRECISION AND MEDICAL EQUIPMENT

ULTRAK, INC., a manufacturer of products for the security and surveillance markets, sold its 10 percent stake in SECURION 24 CO., LTD. The Lewisville, Texas company acquired this ownership in August 1997. At that time, it made Securion 24, which is in the same line of business, the exclusive distributor of its products. Sales of Ultrak equipment were about $1.5 million in 1998 and are projected at more than $2.5 million this year. However, Ultrak decided that future growth could be better achieved by expanding its distribution channels in Japan. Securion 24 will continue its relationship with the company as a nonexclusive distributor.

At an undisclosed cost, KOCH MEMBRANE SYSTEMS, INC., a manufacturer of water-purification and other fluid-separation systems, acquired a majority interest in ABCOR JAPAN CO., LTD. The Tokyo-headquartered company supplies complete membrane systems as well as replacement membranes. It is a longtime distributor of Koch Membrane's products, which incorporate ultrafiltration, microfiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis technologies. The Wilmington, Massachusetts firm expects to capitalize on Abcor Japan's engineering expertise to strengthen its position in the membrane-separation market in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

VACUUM/ATMOSPHERES CO., a supplier of controlled atmosphere systems, has put the NEXUS ONE glove box system on the market through YAMAHACHI & CO., LTD., the Hawthorne, California company's distributor for the last eight years. The NEXUS ONE is an embedded, computer-based unit that monitors, controls and displays all system parameters of VAC's Dri- Trains and Dri-Labs equipment, including pressure control, safety set points, flow rate, regeneration, antechamber cycling and inert gas purge. Yamahachi is targeting sales of the $416,700-and-up NEXUS ONE to government-affiliated research laboratories as well as to makers of chips, lithium batteries, chemicals and drugs. It is projecting first-year sales between $3.3 million and $4.2 million.

The test and measurement side of HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has released a number of new products. They include test boards for PCI bus expansion slots on PCs and servers. The boards, which can handle signals up to 66 MHz, help computer makers reduce warranty costs through preshipment testing as well as allow system engineers to shorten development times. HP Japan is eyeing yearly sales of about 100 of the $8,800 boards.

Also new on the market from HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. is a family of general-purpose, portable spectrum analyzers. The company claims that the HP ESA-E series, which spans five models in the frequency range from 1.5 GHz to 26.5 GHz, offers engineers in R&D, manufacturing and field service faster measurement speed, greater accuracy and better dynamic range than comparably priced products. At the same time, HP Japan added three frequency ranges to its HP ESA-L series of portable spectrum analyzers. This line is a low-cost alternative to the HP ESA-E family.

A new platform for testing fiber-optic components is available as well from HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. The HP 8164A Lightwave Measurement System supports a range of high-performance tunable laser modules. These enable engineers to customize their test setups for all types of active and passive dense wavelength division multiplexing products.

The subsidiary of LECROY CORP. has put on the market a $6,500 kit that transforms its digital oscilloscopes into a dedicated mask-testing tool that can be used for manufacturing, type approval and field testing of optical telecommunications circuits. Chestnut Ridge, New York-based LeCroy is projecting sales of 50 MT03 mask-testing kits a year.

ULTRATECH STEPPER, INC. has won a multimillion-dollar order for its 1700 machine vision system from a company described only as a leading Japanese maker of thin-film heads for disk drives. The customer is expanding its giant magnetoresistive head production capacity by building a plant in Asia. The San Jose, California manufacturer will ship the order by late fall. With this installation, Ultratech Stepper says, it will have thin-film-head lithography tools in "virtually all" of the buyer's worldwide fabrication facilities.

CIPHERGEN BIOSYSTEMS, INC., the developer of a protein analysis system for use in protein biology research, drug discovery and clinical diagnostics, has moved into the Japanese market. It formed a distribution venture for its SELDI (surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization) Protein Biology System with SUMITOMO CORP., which recently spent $2 million to acquire a 3 percent interest in the Palo Alto, California company. Ciphergen has a 30 percent stake in the joint venture; the trader owns the balance. Backstopped by a research center in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture, the new company is targeting sales of the $333,300 system — which consists of disposable ProteinChip array sets, a ProteinChip reader and SELDI Protocol Assistant software — to pharmaceutical companies for accelerating the drug discovery process and to hospitals and research institutions.

With a lag, the mergers and acquisitions taking place in the medical equipment field in the United States lead to reorganizations of the affected companies' operations in Japan. The latest is an outgrowth of the 1998 purchase of U.S. SURGICAL CORP., a maker of surgical stapling equipment and other surgical wound management products, by conglomerate TYCO INTERNATIONAL LTD. of Exeter, New Hampshire and the subsequent formation of the Tyco Healthcare Group in Mansfield, Massachusetts. AUTO SUTURE JAPAN INC., formerly U.S. Surgical's subsidiary, became Tyco Healthcare's main Japanese presence. Now, Auto Suture Japan, which had FY 1998 revenues of $100 million, has absorbed the local operations of two other Tyco Healthcare companies: KENDALL HEALTHCARE PRODUCTS CO., a maker of adhesive products for medical use, and DAVIS & GRECK INC., a producer of sutures.

Medical imaging equipment manufacturer OEC MEDICAL SYSTEMS, INC. has booked an order for five of its Series 9600 Mobile Digital Imaging Systems from Wakayama Prefectural Medical College, a teaching hospital south of Osaka. The sale, arranged by CATHEX CO., LTD., the Salt Lake City, Utah company's distributor, consists of two 9600 general surgery systems, one 9600 basic vascular system, one 9600 advanced vascular system and one 9600 cardiac catheter laboratory system. The hospital intends to use the imaging equipment in a variety of surgical applications, including orthopedic, general surgery, vascular, neurovascular and cardiac procedures. OEC Medical Systems previously had sold a Series 9400 imaging system to the hospital.

GE-YOKOGAWA MEDICAL SYSTEMS, LTD. has agreed to participate in a project spearheaded by the Kobe city government and local medical institutions to develop nuclear magnetic resonance imaging equipment for surgical use that is not available in Japan. Key components of the system, which will be tailored for surgical treatment of digestive system disorders, already exist in the United States. Project members will adapt them for the targeted use. .....In a move that should give a direct boost to its sales of MRI and computed tomography equipment, GE-YOKOGAWA MEDICAL SYSTEMS, LTD. has teamed with JAYMAC SYSTEM CO., LTD., a Sapporo developer of medical imaging software, to improve the networking capabilities of its equipment. Their immediate goal is to integrate the data generated by MRI and CT imaging with patient information. The follow-up step is to develop equipment utilizing the new software for distribution through the channels of YOKOGAWA ELECTRIC CORP., the partner of GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. in GE-Yokogawa Medical Systems.

With MHW approval in hand, sales of NEOPROBE CORP.'s Neoprobe 1500 and neo2000 gamma-detection systems have started. CENTURY MEDICAL INC. is the exclusive distributor of the Dublin, Ohio company's products, which are used for external and intraoperative detection of radioactivity in body tissues or organs after patients have been administered radiopharmaceuticals.

MHW also has cleared for marketing DATASCOPE CORP.'s System 98 intra- aortic balloon pump and Profile 8Fr. balloon catheter. Besides providing more cardiac assistance, the System 98 balloon pump is said to have the unique ability to effectively help patients with irregular heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation. The Montvale, New Jersey manufacturer also says that the System 98 makes balloon pumping therapy simpler to administer and faster to initiate. Datascope's Profile 8Fr. balloon catheter represents even more of a breakthrough since it is the first such product that allows balloon pumping using the same sheath that a cardiologist inserts for coronary angioplasty/stent intervention.

PLC SYSTEMS, INC. expects MHW approval of its Heart Laser System in the second half of 1999 following the submission of the results of clinical testing last December. This system is designed for the treatment of cardiovascular disease through the less invasive procedure of laser revascularization. In the meantime, Franklin, Massachusetts-based PLC has renewed its exclusive distribution arrangement with the subsidiary of IMATRON INC. of South San Francisco, California. The new agreement requires the Imatron unit to purchase at least five Heart Laser Systems this year.

The choices for contact lens wearers in Japan, second only to the United States as a market, continue to expand. The newest will come from COOPERVISION, INC. via distributor ROHTO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. MHW has cleared for marketing the Irvine, California manufacturer's soft spherical contact lenses for correcting nearsightedness and farsightedness as well as CooperVision's soft toric contact lenses for the smaller number of people who also require an astigmatic correction. Rohto, the top Japanese maker of nonprescription ophthalmic products, expects to launch sales of the CooperVision lenses in July.

Already the manufacturer of the best-selling contact lens in Japan, BAUSCH & LOMB INC. hopes to achieve the same position in the market for multipurpose disinfecting solutions. The Rochester, New York company's ReNu cold system for cleaning, rinsing and disinfecting soft contact lenses has received marketing go-ahead from MHW. Sales of this product, said to be the world's leading all-in-one contact lens care solution, as well as a companion product, ReNu Enzymatic Cleaner, were scheduled to start in April. The majority of Japanese contact lens wearers still disinfect their lenses with heat-sterilization methods.

HAEMONETICS CORP., a manufacturer of automated blood-processing systems and disposables, posted revenues in excess of $83.3 million in its last fiscal year in Japan, where the Braintree, Massachusetts company is the market leader in this equipment. Haemonetics' subsidiary foresees continued sales growth, in large part because of a plan announced last year to achieve national self-sufficiency in plasma derivatives by 2008. In the past, Japan imported much of its coagulation factors, immunoglobulin and albumin. The company is the top supplier of equipment and disposables used in the collection of plasma to the local Red Cross, which will need to add plasma-collection capacity if the self-sufficiency goal is to be reached.

An exchange rate of ¥120=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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