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No. 362, November 1999

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American Companies in Japan


Although it had built 55 precipitated calcium carbonate satellite plants for paper manufacturers everywhere else, SPECIALTY MINERALS INC. never had been able to break into the world's second-largest paper market. That finally has changed. The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania company's majority-owned SPECIALTY MINERALS FIMATEC LTD. venture has won a contract from a paper producer described only as a major player in the business to build a PCC satellite plant at one of its mills. Expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2000, the facility will provide both filling and coating- grade PCC for the paper company's fine printing and writing papers. The plant will have an annual capacity of between 50,000 tons and 70,000 tons of PCC, which is a specialty pigment used in place of more expensive wood fiber and other, equally high-cost pigments to fill and coat high-quality paper. Specialty Minerals Fimatec was formed in 1997 by the local subsidiary of Specialty Minerals' parent, MINERALS TECHNOLOGIES INC., and FIMATEC LTD., a supplier of ground calcium carbonate to the Japanese paper industry.

Competitive pressures are forcing FURUKAWA CO., LTD. to end production of rutile titanium dioxide and to import this product from E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO., INC. for distribution in Japan. Shipments will start in January 2000, presumably at the rate of about 12,000 tons a year, which is the volume that Furukawa currently makes at its Osaka factory. The diversified Japanese company will use part of the freed-up capacity to increase output of anatase titanium dioxide, a white pigment.

FUTURA COATINGS, INC., a St. Louis-based maker of high-performance coatings, elastomers and structural resins made from such things as polyurethanes, polyureas, acrylics and epoxies, has moved into the Japanese market. It formed a subsidiary in Osaka, with most of the money supplied by CREATE CLUB CORP. Sales already have started of Futura's polyurethane-based ULTRATHANE RSM (reaction spray molding) Series. These materials are being marketed as an alternative to fiberglass-reinforced plastics, the use of which as a stiffening agent increasingly is restricted because of environmental considerations, particularly their role in producing dioxins when incinerated. Futura's products not only yield no toxic substances when burned but also are highly recyclable. Other advantages include fast cure and demolding rates and high-impact resistance.

PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC. gave SATO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. marketing rights to a topical acne treatment known in the United States as Cleocin T Gel (clindamycin phosphate) but sold elsewhere as Dalacin T Gel. Action on P&U's March application to the Ministry of Health and Welfare for marketing approval is pending. Sato Pharmaceutical believes that sales of the antibiotic, which has been available in America since 1987, could total $14.2 million a year.

The popularity in Japan of PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC.'s Rogaine (minoxidil) for treating hair loss (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 13) no doubt encouraged BANYU PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. to file a new drug application with MHW for Propecia (finasteride). Discovered and commercialized by parent MERCK & CO., INC., the drug blocks the formation of a male hormone that has been implicated in the development of inherited male pattern hair loss. Propecia was released in the United States in 1998. It is the first FDA-approved pill to treat hair loss in men. Banyu Pharmaceutical could start clinical testing of Propecia as soon as 2000. Its goal is to have the drug on the market in 2003.

With the human genome analysis business growing rapidly in Japan, GENEFORMATICS, INC. decided that the time was right to move into the market. The San Diego, California company made RIKEI CORP. the exclusive channel for selling and marketing its products and services, which are designed to expedite the identification of biologically relevant targets from the vast amounts of sequence data produced by various genomics projects underway around the world. GeneFormatics also trained a number of Rikei scientists so that they can provide full technical support to customers. The Japanese company estimates that this new activity could produce revenues of $2.8 million in FY 2000.

A Japanese start-up has begun a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) paternity testing service with help from GENETIC PROFILES CORP. The San Diego, California firm does the actual testing of samples collected by GLOBAL I INC. from medical facilities. Testing two adults and a child costs about $1,400. Global I expects to handle about 300 tests in FY 2000.

An exchange rate of ¥106=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaaa

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