The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


March 2014
Senior Executives Vote Tokyo Hotel World’s Best in 2013

The Shangri-La hotel, Tokyo was named the best hotel in the world by Institutional Investor, topping their World’s Best Hotels list (press release, February 4).

The financial publication placed the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong among its top 100, while the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney, was named the best hotel in the Australian city.

“We are honored to receive this recognition from Institutional Investor’s discerning readers, who spend many nights on the road and truly experience the best hotels in the world,” said Jens Moesker, general manager of the Shangri-La hotel, Tokyo.

The magazine’s 2013 hotel rankings are based on a survey of 208 senior financial executives from 44 countries who spend an average of 40 nights per year in hotels.

US Company Helps Hitachi Profits Soar

Hitachi, Ltd’s net profit more than doubled over the nine months to December 2013—thanks to improved sales and the disposal of part of its stake in a US company (Japan Today, February 5).

The net profit soared 152.7 percent year-on-year to ¥127.3 billion between April and December, while the operating profit rose 27.4 percent to ¥295.5 billion on sales of ¥6.77 trillion—marking a 4.7 percent year-on-year increase.

Following the 2011 triple disaster, the revenue and profits of its power generation-systems business sank. However, this was offset by robust business overseas in lifts, as well as railway and automotive systems. Household appliances fared well due to a rush in demand ahead of the April sales tax hike.

The bottom line was also lifted by gains on sales of some of the shares it held in US data storage company Western Digital Corporation.

For the full year to March, Hitachi now expects a net profit of ¥215 billion instead of the ¥210 billion previously projected. The electronics giant also raised its full-year operating profit forecast to ¥510 billion from ¥500 billion, and sales expectations to ¥9.4 trillion from ¥9.2 billion.

Go-ahead for Shale Gas to Be Exported

Japan has received permission from the US Department of Energy to import natural gas from the state of Louisiana (GlobalPost, February 12).

The project involves Japanese trading firms Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, as well as the shipping company Nippon Yusen KK.

The firms expect to ship about 8 million tons of natural gas to Japan each year, starting in 2017. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Incorporated hopes to use some of the gas.

Although overseas demand for natural gas from the United States has surged since the shale gas boom in the country lowered prices, the US government limits natural gas exports to countries with which it doesn’t have free trade agreements, including Japan.

The Asian Country is set to import about 17 million tons of US natural gas per year, which would supply nearly 20 percent of its annual natural gas needs.

TPP Official in Talks with Finance Minister

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman met with Japan’s Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira Amari to discuss outstanding issues between the United States and Japan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations (Office of the United States Trade Representative, February 15).

Froman and Amari reviewed the state of the negotiations and agreed that, at the upcoming ministerial meeting in Singapore, they would continue to work together for the successful conclusion of a high-standard, comprehensive TPP agreement.

“TPP is a key opportunity to address long-standing barriers and other issues of access to Japan’s market for US exporters and workers,” Froman said.

“Securing strong outcomes with Japan, including for American autos and agriculture, remains a high priority.”

Froman and Amari agreed on the importance of narrowing differences between the United States and Japan on agriculture and other market access and rules issues.

They also welcomed the progress made to date in the US–Japan parallel negotiations to the TPP, but noted that differences remain, particularly in the negotiations on automotive trade.

EBC Elects American Chief

Danny Risberg, CEO of Philips Electronics Japan, Ltd., has been elected chairman of the European Business Council in Japan (EBC) (press release, February 13).

Risberg will no longer be involved in ACCJ committee activities during his tenure as EBC chairman.

He told the ACCJ Journal that he will continue to be an ACCJ member, but without trying to influence direction. “However, I would like to work with the ACCJ as EBC chairman on common goals such as joint white papers, speaker series, and expanded collaboration where appropriate.”

Risberg replaces Duco Delgorge, who stepped down from the position after two years of dedicated service to the council.

Chosen to lead the EBC from 2014 through 2016, Risberg brings to the post distinctive experience and an in-depth understanding of Japan. He has enjoyed a long and exceptionally successful career in Japan, where he worked for many years as a senior executive for Philips Electronics.

He also has a long history with the EBC, having made significant contributions to the council as its vice chairman and as a member of the EBC Board of Governors in his capacity as a committee chairman representative.

“I am honored to have been elected and chosen to represent European industry in Japan at this critical point in time. With the global economy in recovery and Japan eagerly exploring a new model for growth, this is a crucial period to strengthen and redefine EU–Japan relations,” said Risberg.

“The previous EBC chairmen have made outstanding contributions to raising the profile of the EBC. Moreover, their efforts have ensured that the EU and Japanese authorities better understand business concerns, and are more aware of the need for crucial reforms and for the new paradigm of EU–Japan relations that will emerge with the conclusion of the EU–Japan [free-trade agreement/economic partnership agreement] negotiations.

“I am looking forward to working with all EBC members to see these changes through,” he said.

Agreement: Online Fingerprint Index to be Shared

Japan and the United States have signed a deal to provide mutual access to online fingerprint databases to aid criminal investigations (The Japan Times, February 7).

The agreement was signed in Tokyo by Japan’s National Public Safety Commission chairman and United States Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.

The shared database will assist law enforcement agencies to counter foreign and domestic terrorist, criminal, and other threats.

The National Police Agency and other investigative bodies in Japan will be provided with corresponding data from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Under the arrangement, all fingerprint data collected over the past few years for anyone previously arrested, or anyone suspected of engaging in criminal acts, will be available in real time.

Police in Japan will be able to cross reference a database that now contains the fingerprints of over 10 million individuals. In addition, fingerprints of anyone arriving at airports can be matched against those in the US database.

The database does not, however, allow for exchange of data regarding juveniles, or individuals who have been acquitted. Of the 37 countries with which America shares special visa-exemption status, Japan is the first country with which such a program has been established.