Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Number of Japanese going abroad plunges

TOKYO >> The number of Japanese taking overseas trips in November fell by a record on-year margin amid continued fear in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States, a travel organization said today.

The decline of 41.9 percent in November from the same month a year earlier was larger than the 36.1 percent on-year plunge recorded in February 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, the Japan National Tourist Organization said.

In all, 890,000 Japanese traveled overseas in November, down 642,000 from the previous year, the government-affiliated organization said.

JNTO spokesman Hitoshi Sato said fears of air travel following the Sept. 11 attacks caused many Japanese to stay at home.

Sato said there were no immediate signs of improved sentiment and declines would likely continue in coming months. Separately, the organization said the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan fell 7.1 percent in November from the previous year to 352,000.

Fear of terror attacks also affected passengers' choice of transportation during the holidays around the New Year -- one of Japan's busiest travel seasons.

A total of 384,000 Japanese took domestically owned airlines to go overseas between Dec. 22 and Jan. 6, down 15.8 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics compiled by three major Japanese airlines and their affiliates. Passengers to U.S. cities fell 30 percent from the previous year that period.

Garage CEO to run training session

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures will conduct a one-day training session Feb. 25 at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The session will feature presentations, discussions and expert advice on real-world issues, financing tactics, tips on negotiating the best deal and business development.

Executives from Garage Technology Ventures, successful entrepreneurs and other professionals will also share their knowledge and experience. The event is presented by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship and E-Business at University of Hawaii College of Business Administration. Sign-up fee is $199. For more information and online registration go to or call 956-5104.

Honolulu staffing franchise reopens

The Honolulu franchise of Remedy Intelligent Staffing has re-opened under local ownership. The local franchise was purchased by two local entrepreneurs, Marie Kumabe and Kristi Inkinen.

Kumabe was a former human resources director for American Hawaii Cruises, manager of in-flight services for Continental and Northwest Airlines and, most recently, director of internship and career management for the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management. Inkinen had her own executive search firm in Honolulu.

Remedy Intelligent Staffing, with its local office at 3465 Waialae Ave., has nearly 300 offices on the mainland. Kumabe describes the company's work as "effective, creative staffing strategies" for companies and says staffing assessments will be done for free to introduce the business to prospective customers in Hawaii.

JAL, ANA post fall in passenger numbers

Tokyo >> Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co., Asia's two biggest carriers, said passenger numbers on overseas flights fell during the New Year's holiday as safety concerns about flying cut demand for travel.

Japan Airlines' group companies carried 15 percent fewer passengers, or 292,984 people, on international routes from Japan between Dec. 22 and Jan. 6 compared with last year. All Nippon said passengers fell 23 percent to 74,541 on aircraft operated by the parent company. Japan Air System Co., the country's third biggest carrier, posted a 7.6 percent gain in overseas travelers to 15,086 people.

The country's airlines have reduced flights in a bid to stem losses on international routes following the terrorist attacks in the U.S. in September.

Daiei, Seibu to sell units to pay down debt

Tokyo >> Daiei Inc. and Seibu Department Stores Ltd., two of Japan's biggest retailers, will pay down debt by selling units amid slumping consumer spending and the nation's third recession in a decade, the Nihon Keizai newspaper said.

Daiei, Japan's No. 2 retailer, will sell 90 percent of it's A.S.S. Inc. cash-management unit to Carlyle Group Inc. for ¥10 billion ($76.2 million), the paper said, without citing sources. Seibu, a closely held retailer, will sell about 65 percent of general merchandiser Loft Co. for 15 billion yen, the paper said.

Japanese retailers are trying to cut debt accumulated during decades of failed expansion, as record-high corporate failures and unemployment prompt consumers to cut back.

Motorola to fire 800, shut Hong Kong chip plant

Hong Kong >> Motorola Inc., the second-largest maker of mobile phones, will close a Hong Kong chip-packaging plant, firing about 800 workers, or more than half its staff, as part of a plan to return to profitability.

The company, which was the biggest producer of communications semiconductors in 2000, will shift labor-intensive manufacturing to Tianjin, China, and Kuala Lumpur, spokeswoman Gloria Shiu said. The job cuts are part of Motorola's plan, announced last month, to eliminate 4,000 positions by closing some chip plants, said another spokeswoman, Margot Brown.

Motorola said last month it expects to post a profit this year after its first annual loss from operations since 1930. The company plans to invest an additional $6.6 billion in China, the biggest market for mobile phones, though Chairman Christopher Galvin has said Motorola will pare its spending on manufacturing.

Audit of IRS shows 2,300 computers missing

WASHINGTON >> The Internal Revenue Service, which holds taxpayers strictly liable for accurate tax returns, is working to account for more than 2,300 computers that have gone missing over the past three years. A recent Treasury Department audit was unable to determine whether the laptops and other small computers were lost, stolen or simply not properly documented. The IRS is reasonably sure that none contained sensitive taxpayer data.

Toyota to explain plans for Czech factory

DETROIT >> Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to announce tomorrow details of its plans for a new $1.3 billion car plant in the Czech Republic, a joint venture with the French automaker Peugeot.

It will be Toyota's second announcement about a new factory in the last week. On Friday, it said it had chosen a 700-acre site in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of the U.S. border. Though that factory will begin by building beds for Toyota pickups, the company is widely expected to expand into truck production within a few years.

Toyota also has under construction a $220 million V-8 engine plant in Huntsville, Ala., that is scheduled to open next year.

Toyota and Peugeot disclosed the Czech venture last month. The two companies plan to produce subcompact cars for sale in Europe, starting in 2004. Yoshio Ishizaka, Toyota's executive vice president for international operations, said yesterday that Peugeot would build 200,000 cars a year, while Toyota would build 100,000 annually at the factory.

China Minsheng Banking profit up 60%

Shanghai >> China Minsheng Banking Corp., the nation's only private bank, said net income rose a higher-than- expected 60 percent last year as lending to companies almost doubled.

Based on its 2000 profit of 429 million yuan, net income rose to 686.4 million yuan ($82.9 million) last year. Lending rose 90 percent, while deposits increased 80 percent last year, the Beijing-based bank said in a statement.

Minsheng did not provide final figures. Results will be available in the bank's annual report due in the first quarter this year, the lender said. Minsheng earlier forecast 2001 earnings would rise 40 percent.

Minsheng, one of three lenders traded on China's stock markets, is the only bank that doesn't have the government as a shareholder. Founded in 1996 by pigfeed tycoon Liu Yonghao and some of China's wealthiest businessmen, the bank carved out a niche serving foreign joint ventures and Chinese start-ups.

U.S., Cambodia extend bilateral textile pact

WASHINGTON >> The United States said yesterday it has extended a groundbreaking textile trade agreement with Cambodia for an additional three years.

In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative's office also confirmed it had increased the U.S. quota for textile imports from Cambodia by 15 percent for 2002.

Cambodian officials have complained the quota should have been raised 24 percent this year because of progress the country has made to improve conditions for workers.

The 2002 quota level includes a regular annual increase of 6 percent plus a "labor bonus" of 9 percent -- or half the level possible under the 1999 pact.

Trade analysts have hailed the U.S.-Cambodia textile agreement as an innovative tool for encouraging developing countries to improve labor standards, without employing the threat of trade-restricting sanctions.

Isuzu and Hino motors to merge bus units

TOKYO >> Two of Japan's most troubled vehicle makers, Isuzu Motors and Hino Motors, said yesterday that they had reached a deal to merge their bus-making operations next year, as they try to weather a steep sales decline across Asia.

The companies, which have been negotiating the deal for two years, will begin joint production in October 2003. Together they will be Japan's largest bus maker. The companies said they were also discussing a combination of their truck divisions.

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