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No. 363, December 1999

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American Companies in Japan


In a $952,400 or so demonstration of its continued determination to boost its paltry business in Japan, big flat glass maker GUARDIAN INDUSTRIES CORP. will build a processing facility in Yokohama in the spring of 2000. Like the Auburn Hills, Michigan firm's existing plant in Nagoya, the new location will cut glass to customers' specifications and then ship it out to the Tokyo-area client. The glass that Guardian sells in Japan comes mainly from its factory in Thailand. The firm has taken some steps both big and small in recent years in an attempt to break the stranglehold that its three Japanese rivals have on the domestic flat glass market (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 355, April 1999, p. 35).

TENNECO INC., one of America's most diversified manufacturers, concluded that its future in Japan lies mainly in automotive parts, particularly its sizable shock absorber business. Consequently, the Houston-headquartered conglomerate's big Tenneco Packaging operation sold its 60 percent stake in HEXAJAPAN CO., LTD. Formed in 1997 with minority partner TOMEN CORP., this Tokyo-based company sells packaging materials, mostly to automotive and consumer electronics manufacturers. Cardboard maker ASAHI SHIGYO CO., LTD. bought Tenneco Packaging's interest for an undisclosed price.

The upscale line of furniture designed by POLO RALPH LAUREN CORP. is available in Japan for the first time. Furniture retailer OTSUKA KAGU, LTD. is selling about 90 pieces, including sofas, dining room tables and chairs, and lamps, as well as fabrics at a Ralph Lauren Furniture Gallery in its Tokyo showroom, the largest furniture store in Japan. Ralph Lauren sofas are priced from $4,500, while the company's dining room tables go for $4,000 and up.

MHW approved for marketing FEMALE HEALTH CO.'s condom for women. Under a fall 1997 tie-up, TAISHO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. will be responsible for marketing and distributing the Chicago company's polyurethane-based product. The midsize drug firm expects to start sales under the Myfemy brand name in the first half of 2000. In anticipation of this launch, Taiho Pharmaceutical ordered 2.5 million condoms from Female Health.

QUINTILES TRANSNATIONAL CORP., a big provider of contract pharmaceutical services related to drug development, sales and marketing, will offer through its subsidiary training for people interested in jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. The affiliate of the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina company is on track to do about $30 million worth of business in 1999. By expanding into the training field, it thinks that revenues could double in 2000.

Japanese executives looking for a job or a different position have a new tool available. Executive search firm FUTURESTEP INC., a unit of leading headhunter KORN/FERRY INTERNATIONAL INC., opened a subsidiary to offer its unique Internet-based search services to management professionals, especially middle managers. Interested job- seekers complete a 200-ques-tion form so that skill and personality profiles of them can be developed. When Futurestep clients have openings, the firm searches its data base for appropriate matches.

Manhattan's OMNICOM GROUP INC., one of the world's biggest advertising agencies, has increased its ownership of I&S CORP. to 49 percent from 40 percent. An Omnicom affiliate acquired an initial stake of 20 percent in what now is Japan's seventh-largest ad agency in April 1998 and then doubled its interest the following August. In becoming I&S's top shareholder, Omnicom bought a 6.55 percent interest in the firm from members of the Saison Group and a 2.45 percent share from firms associated with the publisher of Yomiuri Shimbun.

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