Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Japanese firm sets up offshore insurance in isles

A Japanese pinball machine manufacturer has set up an insurance company in Hawaii, under Hawaii's 1986 "captive insurance" law, to insure its own operations in Japan. Heiwa Corp., a publicly traded company, set up the new Heiwa Insurance Inc. by taking out a license from the state insurance division, the division said.

"This is the first foreign owner that is taking direct advantage of Hawaii's favorable regulatory and U.S. investment environments to finance insurance risks abroad, while at the same time optimizing its home country taxes," Gov. Ben Cayetano said in the statement.

Kazuyoshi Horie, who was named president of Heiwa Insurance, said Hawaii was chosen for its prudent but flexible regulations and ease of access, as well as beneficial tax agreements between the United States and Japan.

Captive insurance is a formalized type of self-insurance where a business or nonprofit organization sets up a new company in Hawaii and gets a special license for that company to provide the organization's insurance.

Hawaii has licensed 96 captive insurance companies and at the end of 2000 they had about $1.6 billion in total assets and $275 million invested through Hawaii financial institutions, said Wayne Metcalf, state insurance commissioner.

Maui Land applauds pineapple tariff ruling

The U.S. International Trade Commission has voted in favor of another five years of taxes aimed at canned pineapple imported below cost by companies in Thailand, drawing immediate accolades from one local pineapple grower.

The so-called "antidumping" levy, originally commissioned in 1995, has been under review for the past year. Its extension drew the support of Maui Pineapple Co., a subsidiary of Maui Land & Pineapple Inc.

"We and our union will continue to aggressively oppose illegal dumping by importers, which threatens our company and our employees' jobs," said Douglas Schenk, president of Maui Pineapple. The company blamed its $16 million net loss in 1993 on dumping from Thailand.

Duties on pineapple imports from Thailand range up to 51 percent, and are subject to annual reviews by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

State economic indicator falls for 8th straight month

The state's leading economic indicator fell for the eighth consecutive month in January, reflecting slower growth in Hawaii's economy.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism compiles information from 10 different indicators every month to forecast economic activity anywhere from five to 10 months ahead.

All three of the index's national components, including consumer confidence in the Pacific region, fell for the fifth straight month. Of the five Hawaii components, all were up except for the value of construction permits. On the international front, the yen fell, decreasing the purchasing power of visitors from Japan, but growth in Japanese labor earnings improved.

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