Business Break & Measure for Measure

Power PlugThe future is here
Battery stations that recharge electric cars were installed in Tokyo last month. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) installed the first of nine stations for the experimentation of battery-operated vehicles, to be test driven by TEPCO employees during the next year. The high-speed charger allows the car to run for about 40 kilometers with a quick five-minute charge. As major Japanese auto makers schedule to release electric cars in the following year, it may not be long until people will be talking about how their car ran out of battery.

FamilyMartA new spin on the same old ...
Convenience store chain FamilyMart opened the first in a line of new “eco-friendly” stores in Chiba, with plans to build about 1,000 more nation-wide within the next five years. Constructed from wood instead of the typical steel-frames, the new stores will supposedly emit 60 percent less C02 than conventional energy-guzzling brick and mortar shops. The chain estimates it will save about 3 million yen for every store built, a king’s ransom considering the chain opens about 500 stores every year.

Jumping on the innovation bandwagon, Seven & I Holdings, operators of the nation’s Seven Elevens, Ito-Yokados and Dennys, has announced plans to launch a chain of discount grocery stores in response to several quarters of flat profits and an increasingly competitive consumer market. Imaginatively named “The Price,” plans for the first store include prices 25-30 percent less than a typical Ito-Yokado, smaller floor space, less full-time staff, about 30 percent fewer products, and 100 percent less parking. The company is praying for a successful “less-is-more” strategy, as consumers tighten their purse strings and commodity prices continue to rise.

IllustrationGeeks rule and bankers drool?
According to calculations by the Financial Times, employees at Nintendo earn more per head than those at investment banking mammoth Goldman Sachs. The calculations, based on company accounts, estimate that the average banker generated $1.24 million in 2007, while smug geeks at the software giant produced more than $1.6 million. Responding to the news, Nintendo added insult to injury saying that “if anything, the figures under-estimated its profitability per employee because it accounts for some salaries as R&D spending.” These numbers may look pretty on paper, but at the end of the day Goldman employees roll out with about $660,000 per year, while Nintendo employees pocket an average of only $90,900.

Beer BottlesPuts hair on their chests
Asahi Breweries Ltd. Announced that beginning in October, they will start selling Asahi Ginger Draft, a low-malt beer containing ginger extract with a lower carbon content and only 4 percent alcohol. The beverage was reportedly developed because, according to a company spokesperson, “young people don’t like beer’s bitter taste.” This faux beer is just another in a long line of drinks catering towards the light-weight crowd. Vege-cocktails, anyone?

Post office goes postal
Japan Post began a project to renew and make the present post offices more efficient by renting out spaces to florists, department stores, and convenient stores; thus the opening of Lawson Postal, Japan’s first convenient store/post office. Facilities are installed where customers can sit down and write letters or surf the Internet on a wireless LAN. Other services include selling post-related products such as envelopes and postcards in addition to regular products sold in Lawson stores. The store is open 24-hours and accepts parcels outside the regular post offices’ business hours.

It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s better than nothing.
Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co, responding to the Bank of Japan’s decision to let the US Federal Reserve supply dollars in Japan to ease financial tensions after the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15.

IPO Report
There were seven completed or forecast IPOs for the first half of September and the latter part of August. JVC Kenwood Holdings, a holding company created by Victor Company of Japan, Limited (JVC), and Kenwood Corporation will be listed on October 1. The two companies announced that increasing competition, particularly from South Korea, Taiwan and China, has forced them to look for partners in order to stay competitive. The company will undergo a management integration when it is listed from October 1 in the 1st section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Also listing on the 1st section in October is Tempstaff Holdings, the holding company for temping agencies Tempstaff and People Staff. Mining company Sumiseki Holdings will also be listing in the same month.

In the 2nd section Kirayaka Bank, Ltd. Probably chose the worst possible time for a financial institution to IPO. The bank, through its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, also does clerical work outsourcing, venture capital, development, maintenance and operation of computer systems.

Drugstore company Growell Holdings Co. Ltd. And pharmaceutical company Medical
System Network both listed on September 1.

Kawakin Holdings Co. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Kawaguchi Metal Industries Co., Ltd, will list on October 1. Not the best time for a steel manufacturer to IPO but they have anyway. Analysts were calling August a ‘dead cat bounce.’ While September wasn’t too bad, the real test will come in November and October.


Measure For Measure

0.015The number of seconds it takes Honda’s new airbag to inflate.

5,000The estimated number of customers who lined up for the opening of Tokyo’s first H&M on September 13.

102.52 millionTotal amount in yen of excess fuel charges wrongly collected by JAL and ANA between April 2006 and May 2008.

4 trillionThe estimated increase of tax revenue in yen in 10 years if cigarette prices are raised from 300 to 500 yen a pack.