Economy

Friction reported between Panasonic, Tesla employees over cell battery plant

Updated : 21.04.2017 / Category Economy

The Gigafactory that Panasonic Corporation and Tesla, Inc. will build for battery cell production in Nevada is causing a few headaches for the Japanese firm, according to well-informed sources.

"Tesla CEO Elon Musk has absolute power over his company and his subordinates must obey what he says," said an insider. "Because of this, some Panasonic employees have grown frustrated in dealing with Tesla employees, who they regard as inflexible."


Nikon's bleak future

Updated : 17.04.2017 / Category Economy

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Nikon Corporation is acutely feeling the pinch following a steady stream of business setbacks over the past 10 years.

The low-cost digital camera market has virtually vanished due to the advent of smartphones, and sales of single-lens reflex cameras--Nikon's primary profit-earner--have declined as shopping sprees by Chinese tourists visiting Japan have cooled in the past few years. In addition, the Tokyo-based company lagged rivals in the development of new semiconductor lithography systems. Nikon's survival now depends on exports to liquid crystal-related plants in China, where capital investment on such facilities is ramping up.

Japan's Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance deceived client to seal major contract

Updated : 10.04.2017 / Category Economy

In March 2015, an Osaka-based section of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd., was struggling to attain the sales target for the business year that would end that month. The section, which sells cargo insurance to major companies including Daikin Industries, Ltd., Teijin Ltd. and Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd., was trying to surpass about ¥1.8 billion in sales it attained the previous business year.

To reach this goal, the section resorted to "unacceptable wrongdoing," alleges a Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance insider. The company is the core member of MS & AD Insurance Group Holdings, Inc., Japan's second-largest non-life insurance company.


Honda's Thai operations 'on the decline'

Updated : 11.02.2017 / Category Economy

Following poor sales, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is to halt one of its two production lines at its factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, by March. "It's the start of Honda's decline in the area," said a source at a rival Japanese carmaker, echoing similar growing sentiments.

Honda officials insist that shifts have doubled on the remaining production line and "output is being maintained." However, informed sources say the firm's annual Thai-based output capability--including that of Honda's second factory in eastern Prachinburi--has reduced from 420,000 vehicles to about 270,000--a drop of almost 40 percent.

Toyota trembles in face of Trump demands

Updated : 01.02.2017 / Category Economy

The North American vehicle market is poised to undergo a sea change as global automakers scramble to deal with new U.S. President Donald Trump's bluster. In particular, Toyota Motor Corp. has been singled out by Trump in a Twitter tirade. On Jan. 5, Trump tweeted: "Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax."

However, a reporter for a Japanese national newspaper suggests Trump might have some of his facts wrong. "Toyota will build a plant in Guanajuato, not Baja. And what's more, Toyota is shifting production there from Canada—it has nothing to do with the United States," said the reporter, an expert on the auto industry. "It was a completely groundless accusation. There was no need to make a big deal about it."

Nevertheless, the public criticism by Trump jolted Toyota. At the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit a few days later, Toyota President Akio Toyoda announced his company would invest $10 billion in the United States in the next five years.

The insatiable ambition of SoftBank's CEO

Updated : 10.01.2017 / Category Economy

SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son stunned both the Japanese and U.S. political and business circles when he met with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York on December 6 (local time).

During the 45-minute-long talks at Trump Tower, Son—known for his shrewd ability to win over influential individuals to further his own goals—promised to invest a total of $50 billion (about ¥5.7 trillion) in U.S. startups, helping create about 50,000 jobs. For his part, Trump described Son (warmly referring to him as "Masa") as "one of the great men of industry." It was the first meeting between the two men.

JT making questionable political donations in bid to stop tobacco tax hike

Updated : 07.12.2016 / Category Economy

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Antismoking is a long-established social trend that makes smokers feel out of place. And with the International Olympic Committee championing smoke-free Olympics and Paralympics, Tokyo will likely stiffen regulations in the run-up to the 2020 Games—including the rules on passive smoking.

Despite the global antismoking trend, Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) has been putting up resistance in an attempt to protect its huge profits and vested interests. The company is accused of prioritizing corporate gain over smoking-related health issues, allegedly providing donations to politicians "in return for favors."

This article tries to shed light on JT's behind-the-scenes maneuvering in a society where antismoking is the mainstream stance.

Family tensions and succession maneuvering darken Toyota's top ranks

Updated : 01.12.2016 / Category Economy

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A complex network of family connections helped the Toyoda family create the giant conglomerate that today is centered around Toyota Motor Corp. Japan's leading carmaker now has more than 560 subsidiaries—either consolidated, or accounted for in the equity method—under its wing.

Yet amid the transfer of power at the company from Shoichiro Toyoda to his son Akio, there have emerged clear signs of friction between members of the main Toyoda family and relatives in other branches of the family, according to a former executive of Denso Corp., a Toyota group firm.

In the past, members of the sprawling Toyoda family tree were on more familiar terms, calling each other by their family nicknames, according to inside sources. Members of the three branch families—referred to as the Shinke, Oshikiri and Chikaramachi branches—would gather socially with their relatives in the main Toyoda family a few times a year.

The truth behind the Dentsu scandals

Updated : 07.11.2016 / Category Economy

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A company's true nature is often revealed by the way it handles trouble.

Since late September, a number of scandals have arisen at Dentsu Inc., Japan's leading advertising agency, including the overcharging of clients for digital advertising services and a ruling by a Tokyo labor standards inspection office that recognized a former Dentsu employee's suicide as "death from overwork." One of the firm's employees, meanwhile, described the company's handling of such affairs as "among the worst."

Dentsu workers often patronizingly lecture client firms about marketing and other matters, but when faced with its own problems, Dentsu itself is fundamentally ill-prepared.

Japan's ¥1 trillion economic assistance to Russia a foolhardy ploy to regain Northern Territories

Updated : 11.10.2016 / Category Economy

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At a regular morning press conference on Sept. 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga showed little patience with a question about whether he acknowledged a plan by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to invest in Rosneft, a major oil company effectively owned by the Russian government. "There's no truth in that story," he replied curtly. "The ministry isn't discussing it." The top Japanese government spokesman then refused to answer further questions.

Japan-Russia summit talks were scheduled to take place that same day, and, in the afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Vladivostok for his 14th meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But, with a scoop that targeted the meeting, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) ran a story on its front page with a headline that proclaimed "Govt to offer comprehensive cooperation to Russia in energy field."

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