Japans Panasonic eyes 17,000 job cuts

Japans electronics giant Panasonic has announced it aims to cut its global workforce to 350,000 in two years, a reduction of about 17,000 positions, in a bid to streamline its operations.

It also planned to spend 1.9 billion US dollars over the next two years on restructuring in a drive to increase its global competitiveness.

The announcement came after Panasonic Electric Works and Sanyo Electric this month became wholly owned units of Osaka-based Panasonic, whose workforce numbered 366,937 at the end of March this year.

The planned job cuts will mean roughly a 10 percent reduction from March 2010 when Panasonic had 384,586 employees.Company president Fumio Ohtsubo said the firm must integrate duplicated operations to boost the groups competitiveness.

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Japan new vehicle sales fall by record 51%

Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses logged their biggest-ever drop in April, an industry group said Monday as the March quake and tsunami hit production and supplies to dealers.

The sales came to 108,824 units in April, down 51 percent from a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

The drop, far steeper than a 37 percent fall in March, was the biggest since the data began being recorded in 1968. The previous record fall was 45.1 percent in May 1974 when Japan was reeling from the oil crisis.

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Japan’s Earthquake Hits American Companies’ Bottom Line

When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March, economists and corporate leaders knew it was only a matter of time for the financial effects to reach American companies.

With quarterly earnings season in full swing, companies are reporting in hard numbers what analysts and business leaders could only predict after the March 11 disaster: consumer sales were lost; breaks with suppliers have led to output cuts; and earnings weakened.

The corporate reporting, based on statements from more than a dozen American companies over the last few weeks, demonstrates how intertwined global markets are, when a disaster thousands of miles away in a coastal area of northern Japan rippled through to an auto retailer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It also shows that a broad spectrum of companies, like jewelers, handbag makers, clothing retailers and technology companies, were affected.

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Wal-Mart’s Seiyu to re-open half it’s stores after quake

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is resuming normal operations at half the stores hampered by Japan’s strongest earthquake as residents struggle to find water, food and other necessities.

A dozen of Wal-Mart’s Seiyu stores in the quake-hit Sendai area are restarting full operations today after being limited mostly to relief efforts for two weeks, Scott Price, Wal-Mart’s Asia chief, said in an interview yesterday. Of the remaining 12 stores, 10 will be opened as soon as possible and two may take a “long time” because they’re covered in mud, he said.

Retailers from Wal-Mart to 7-Eleven operator Seven & I Holdings Co. are racing to reopen stores and replenish shelves after the March 11 disaster left hundreds of thousands in the Tohoku region, northeast Japan, scrambling for shelter, food and water. The magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami knocked out more than 1,000 stores in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, according to estimates at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

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Yen Plunges Most in Two Years After G-7 Annoucement

The yen tumbled the most in more than two years against the dollar as Group of Seven nations said they will jointly intervene in foreign-exchange markets for the first time in more than a decade.

Japan began the effort and the currency fell against all of its 16 major counterparts as Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said each country will intervene when their markets open. The G- 7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs said in a joint statement after a conference call that they will “provide any needed cooperation.” The Australian and New Zealand dollars rose, paring weekly losses, as a rally in Japanese shares boosted demand for higher-yielding assets.

The G-7 statement “met everyone’s expectations, it was what people wanted,” said Tsutomu Soma, a bond and currency dealer at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The earthquake is considered one of the biggest in a few centuries, and so other nations must help Japan. The yen should fall toward 83 as nations are unified to stop its advance.”

The yen plunged 3.3 percent to 81.57 per dollar as of 11:51 a.m. in Tokyo from 78.89 in New York yesterday, when it touched 76.25, a post-World-War-II high. That’s the biggest drop since Oct. 28, 2008.

The currency dropped to 114.76 per euro from 110.61. The dollar weakened to $1.4066 per euro from $1.4021.

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Recovery – Japan’s job availability is at new 2-year high

Japan’s jobless rate held steady in January and the availability of jobs improved to a two-year high, adding to signs that the economy is gradually recovering from stagnation.

But household spending marked its fourth straight month of annual declines in January, the longest losing streak since a 14-month drop in 2008 and 2009, suggesting that improvements in the economy will be slow to broaden out.

The recent spike in commodity prices also clouds the outlook for the fragile economy as it threatens to squeeze corporate profits and dampen consumer sentiment.

"The Japanese economy is moving upward little by little," Economics Minister Kaoru Yosano said in a news conference.

"But we need to be alert about a surge in crude oil futures prices that will likely be reflected in physical prices, and with a certain time lag, have a major impact on the Japanese economy."

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Japan and India sign a bilateral economic partnership accord

Japan and India signed a bilateral economic partnership agreement Wednesday that will strengthen ties with the fast-growing South Asian market of 1.15 billion people.

The EPA will remove tariffs on 94 percent of the bilateral total trade in terms of value, which was about ¥900 billion in 2009, within 10 years.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma signed the agreement in Tokyo, making India the 12th country to sign a free-trade agreement with Japan.

At the ceremony, Maehara expressed hope that the newly signed agreement will "promote a strategic partnership between the two countries so that they can establish win-win relations and achieve growth.

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E-readers spawn scanning cottage industry as consumer demands not met in Japan

Yusuke Ohki’s 2,000 books were crowding out his Tokyo apartment, so he scanned them all into an Apple iPad. Six months later the 28-year-old is running a 120-strong startup doing the same thing for customers.

Japan’s cramped living conditions and the arrival of the iPad in May have spawned as many as 60 companies offering to turn paper books into e-books as publishers have been slow to provide content for new electronic readers.

Japan has lagged behind the U.S. in introducing e-books because of a rigid pricing system, uncertainty over copyrights and early problems reproducing Japanese characters on screens, according to Toshihiro Takagi, an analyst at market researcher Impress R&D in Tokyo.

"People are taking matters into their own hands because the publishers are not meeting the market’s needs," Takagi said.

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SCE President on the new PlayStation Suite Service

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc SCE announced the "Next Generation Portable NGP," a successor to the PlayStation Portable PSP portable game console, and the "PlayStation Suite PSS," a service for providing games to Android-based devices, Jan 27, 2011See related article 1, 2.On the day after this announcement, there was a roundtable Q&A session with SCE President and Group CEO Kazuo Hirai. And this article is focused on the topics related to the PSS.Q: Can you tell us the platform dependency of the PSS?Hirai: There are not only Android-based mobile devices but also Windows- and iOS-based mobile devices. If we try to support all of them from the beginning, we will run out of resources.So, we will put priority on sales volume and focus on Android. When we put weight on sales volume, among Android-based devices, smartphones are the best and tablet PCs come second.If the use of the "Sony Internet TV Powered by Google TV Google TV" spreads and its sales volume increases, we might provide the PSS to its users, too. Also, we might provide the PSS as a killer application to spread the use of the Google TV.Again, we are not going to ignore other platforms than Android. But we will put importance on sales volume and start with Android.

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Pokemon Data Big Business In Japan?

Japan is going a bit copyright crazy of late. It’s not cool to sell customised figures online, it’s not cool to rent video games in love hotels, and now, it’s apparently not cool to sell Pokémon save data.On Japan’s Yahoo! Auctions, there is a cottage industry in which saved in-game Pokémon are bought and sold. Instead of players collecting their own Pokémon, they can just buy 500 or so from a Pokémon for a price.Pokémon and in turn Nintendo are not pleased. This is currently unregulated as games are not being sold, but rather, game data. Thus, it falls into a grey zone. Complicating issues is that players would technically need a ROM to save on, which brings the specter of piracy into the picture.

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