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No. 360, September 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


North American makers of automotive bumpers will have a new source of energy- absorbing foam cores in mid-2000. That is KANEKA CORP.'s scheduled start-up date for an $8 million plastics-molding plant in Jackson, Michigan. The company's molded- bead polypropylene and polyethylene foam, sold under the EPERAN brand name, is said to deliver superior mechanical strength, cushioning, lightweight density and energy-absorption properties. At capacity, the plant will be able to make 2,650 tons of foam a year. In the project's second stage, slated for 2001, KANEKA TEXAS CORP., which will run the factory, will build a bead-making facility to supply EPERAN beads to the molding plant as well as to other customers. At that point, the Jackson site will have about 60 employees. Kaneka Texas has made EPERAN-brand products at its Pasadena, Texas factory since 1990. The plant started operations in 1984 making polyamide film.

The latest DAIKIN INDUSTRIES, LTD. plan for becoming a bigger player in the American fluoroplastics market, particularly the water- and oil-repellant end of the business, involves the construction of a $26.5 million plant at its Decatur, Alabama production complex for repellant intermediates and closer collaboration with MINNESOTA MINING & MANUFACTURING CO. The time frame for plant construction has not been decided. Neither has the role of 3M. That company supplies fluoroplastics building blocks to Daikin's existing operations from an adjacent Decatur plant, but it and E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO., INC. together dominate the U.S. market for water- and oil-repellant agents. In 1997, DAIKIN AMERICA, INC. opened a technical center for repellants. It also has a major expansion underway to add capacity for tetrafluoroethylene and hexafluoropropylene, which are used to make a product for molding wire shielding (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 351, December 1998, p. 2).

As part of its plan for restoring profitability to consolidated operations, MARUBENI CORP. is weighing the sale in FY 2000 of its half interest in OXYMAR. The world's largest supplier of vinyl chloride monomer with an annual capacity of 1.1 million tons, the Ingleside, Texas manufacturer is a 1990 joint venture with OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL CORP. But Houston-based MAXROY CORP., the Marubeni subsidiary that is the actual investor in the company, continues to lose money because of a global glut of VCM. Current thinking at headquarters is to sell Maxroy's share of Oxymar to Occidental Chemical and to liquidate the subsidiary.

Bottom-line considerations also persuaded MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL CORP. to sell PACIFIC WESTERN EXTRUDED PLASTICS CO. to EAGLE PACIFIC INDUSTRIES, INC. for roughly $80 million. Japan's top chemical manufacturer acquired the Eugene, Oregon maker of polyvinyl chloride pipe in October 1995. Pacific Western is the third- largest producer of PVC pipe in the United States, with six manufacturing plants in the Pacific Northwest and 1998 sales of some $200 million. Minneapolis-based Eagle is in the same business, although it is a smaller player. However, with the purchase of Pacific Western, the company becomes the number-two U.S. supplier of PVC pipe.

Developing a new family of high-performance olefin polymerization catalysts that exceed the performance of conventional and metallocene catalysts is the objective of a research collaboration between MITSUI CHEMICALS, INC. and DOW CHEMICAL CO. Both are world leaders in olefin polymerization catalysts and metallocene- catalyzed ethylene copolymers, but by working together, they expect to accelerate commercialization of catalysts with new properties. As part of the tie-up, Mitsui Chemicals and Dow will cross-license certain patents pertaining to metallocene- catalyzed ethylene copolymers. This arrangement will give each more latitude to make and market ethylene copolymers using their respective metallocene catalysts. Under it, Mitsui Chemicals will gain access to Dow's INSITE technology.

A key part of TOHPE CORP.'s strategy for returning its business to the black is to move into the American market for acrylic rubber. The Osaka prefecture company derives three-fourths of its revenues from paints, but it also makes acrylic rubber. This product, used in automotive engine seals, has greater heat resistance than nitrile-butadiene rubber and synthetic rubber. Tohpe has a team working on the development of acrylic rubber compounds specifically for the United States. It also has tied up with an unnamed Japanese marketing outfit that has strong ties to the vehicle industry. Reportedly, only three companies in the world make acrylic rubber.

Japan's number-two pharmaceutical manufacturer, SANKYO CO., LTD., says that it wants to start direct sales of its prescription drugs in the United States. Three of its major products currently are licensed to leading American pharmaceutical houses: Pravachol (pravastatin sodium), a compound for inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis that had 1998 U.S. sales in excess of $1 billion, to BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB CO.; Vantin (cefpodoximeproxetil), an oral cephalosporin antibiotic, to PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC.; and Rezulin (troglitazone), a treatment for Type II diabetes, to WARNER-LAMBERT CO. The latter drug, which produced revenues of $750 million last year, is copromoted by SANKYO/PARKE-DAVIS CO., an equally owned Parsippany, New Jersey venture between Sankyo and the Parke-Davis division of Warner Lambert that was formed in late 1996 for this purpose. However, Rezulin has run into problems because it has greater side effects than two other drugs on the market for Type II diabetes (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 357, June 1999, p. 2). This marketing setback is one reason that Sankyo is eyeing direct U.S. sales, although that effort also would cover products it has in its U.S. pipeline. In the near term, the company hopes to expand staffing at Sankyo/Parke-Davis to 310 people or more from 210 now. In time, Sankyo plans to make the joint venture a wholly owned subsidiary.

ACTOS (pioglitazone hydrochloride), one of the drugs for adult-onset diabetes that has cut into sales of Rezulin (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, pp. 2-3), will be marketed in much of the world by ELI LILLY AND CO. The big Indianapolis pharmaceutical company comarkets the drug in the United States with ACTOS commercializer TAKEDA CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES, LTD. Lilly will market the treatment in European and Asian countries where Takeda Chemical does not have its own sales networks as well as in Africa and the Middle East. In Europe, the Lilly markets exclude the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The United States is the only country in which ACTOS currently is approved for sale.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared for marketing Aciphex (rabeprazole sodium), a protein pump inhibitor discovered and commercialized by EISAI CO., LTD. That company's Teaneck, New Jersey subsidiary and the Titusville, New Jersey unit of JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICA, N.V., part of the JOHNSON & JOHNSON group, will comarket Aciphex for the healing of erosive gastroesophageal (acid) reflux disease, the maintenance of healed erosive GERD and the treatment of duodenal ulcers. The potential U.S. market for Aciphex is at least the 25 million people who suffer from GERD and heartburn on a daily basis. It possibly is as big as the more than 60 million who report symptoms once a month. Rabeprazole sodium was approved for sale in Japan in 1997 under the Pariet trade name. All European Union countries also have given it the marketing greenlight.

FUJISAWA HEALTHCARE, INC. has gained exclusive North American development and marketing rights to an injectable form of DISCOVERY THERAPEUTICS, INC.'s selective adenosine A1 agonist, DTI-0009, for treating cardiac conditions associated with abnormally high heart rates. Phase I clinical studies of the drug in both intravenous and oral dosage forms are just starting. DTI-0009 is similar to but more selective than two adenosine-based products that the Deerfield, Illinois-headquartered subsidiary of FUJISAWA PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. markets. It licensed Adenocard and Adenoscan from MEDCO RESEARCH, INC. Together, they had 1998 sales of $90 million-plus. Richmond, Virginia-based DTI retained foreign rights to the injectable form of DTI-0009. It plans worldwide development of an oral product for chronic treatment of atrial fibrillation.

In a first-of-its-kind arrangement, SHIN NIPPON BIOMEDICAL LABORATORIES, LTD. has a pending agreement with the University of Maryland to form a company to undertake clinical testing for companies that have submitted investigational new drug applications to the FDA. Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturers, which typically outsource clinical trials in the United States, are the prospective joint venture's primary targets. The unnamed company will specialize in the areas of treatments for osteoporosis and cerebral infarctions. Kagoshima prefecture-based Shin Nippon Biomedical, a preclinical contract research organization, will be represented in the new company through SNBL USA, LTD. of Bothell, Washington. The subsidiary is rapidly building the capability to conduct safety and efficacy testing for drug companies (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 2). A change in state law that became effective in July allows the University of Maryland to enter into commercial ventures.

An exchange rate of ¥113=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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