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No. 360, September 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


In order to bolster sales of safety glass for cars and trucks in the United States, ASAHI GLASS CO., LTD. will open a R&D/market development facility in Detroit by the start of 2002. Japan's top glass manufacturer owns the number-two North American producer of flat glass, AFG INDUSTRIES, INC. Last year, that Kingsport, Tennessee- headquartered company opened a float glass plant in Richmond, Kentucky to make the high-quality product required for automotive glass (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, pp. 8-9). Apparently, though, AFG has not been as successful as it anticipated in taking automotive glass business away from such entrenched U.S. competitors as PPG INDUSTRIES, INC. By expanding its onshore development capabilities, Asahi Glass hopes to expand AFG's automotive safety glass market beyond Japanese vehicle manufacturers operating in North America to GENERAL MOTORS CORP. in particular.

SURPASS INDUSTRY CO., LTD. has tapped NANO-MASTER, INC. of Austin, Texas to market its Fluoropolymers Quick Connectors. This series of fluorine resin-based one-touch (instant lock) connectors is designed mainly for contact with high-purity chemicals used in the semiconductor manufacturing process, although the Saitama prefecture manufacturer's products also are suitable for such applications as semiconductor production, biochemistry, pure water, medical and environmental equipment. Fluorine resin provides high chemical resistance to Quick Connectors' connecting parts, while the special fluoropolymer springs ensure high leak resistance.

With its sales of watches in the low end (under $100) of the market in a slump, particularly in the United States, SEIKO CORP. has taken the once-un-thinkable step of turning to an outside company, an American one at that, for help. SEIKO INSTRUMENTS, INC. has formed a venture with fast-growing watch maker FOSSIL, INC. to target American watch sales by big discount retailers. SII MARKETING INTERNATIONAL, INC., based in Richardson, Texas like Fossil and majority-owned by the Seiko Group, will draw on Seiko Instruments' production expertise and Fossil's marketing capability. The new company also will have access to the sales channels developed by KING CO. for Seiko's Lorus brand, which now will be marketed by SII Marketing. Sales of the more upscale Seiko brand of watches will continue to be handled outside of SII Marketing. Seiko Instruments and Fossil actually are not strangers since SII has supplied movements for some of Fossil's fashion-oriented watches and supplied it with products on an OEM basis.

Through its Bellevue, Washington investment subsidiary, TRANS COSMOS INC. is emerging as a major provider of financing for Internet start-ups, particularly those that it believes have potential in Japan. It already has invested in at least 20 such ventures. The latest Trans Cosmos investment, amounting to $11 million, went into Internet media tracker and market researcher NETRATINGS, INC. The Milpitas, California company keeps media planners, site publishers, advertisers, e-commerce companies and the Internet investment community abreast of on-line user behavior through daily, weekly and monthly data. NetRatings will use the Trans Cosmos money to help it expand internationally as well as to step up its audience-measurement offerings in the United States.

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

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