Tag: Japan

Toshiba to build new NAND plant

Electronics maker Toshiba is one of the few who is not abandoning Japan in search of cheaper markets in Taiwan or Korea.

The company has announced that it is going to build a new NAND flash memory plant in Japan as early as this summer.

According to the Nikkan Kogyo newspaper, the company wants to cash in on the dramatic rise of mobile devices.

The plant is the second part of a fifth NAND factory. The plans had been on the drawing board for a while, but Toshiba had not revealed when work would begin.

Now it is clear that the company wants the NAND flash memory out there as fast as possible with the new plant working by 2013.

Toshiba has not revealed how much the expansion will cost or how much more capacity it will provide.

NAND flash memory is being touted as a potential money spinner, although in a year or so there will be a lot of competition out there. 

Olympus six charged

Tokyo prosecutors have charged the camera and endoscope maker Olympus and six key figures as part of its investigation into the $1.7 billion accounting fraud.

Ex-chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former executive vice-president Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada are charged with inflating the company’s net worth in financial statements for the years ended March 2007 and 2008.

Also charged were former bankers Akio Nakagawa, Nobumasa Yokoo and Taku Hada.

According to Reuters,  the six were arrested in February on suspicion of filing false financial statements. A seventh person arrested last month has not been charged.

Olympus said that it will be taking the charges “very seriously” and will continue to strengthen its “corporate governance”.

Olympus expressed its deep apologies to shareholders, investors, business partners, customers and other related parties for causing trouble.

Prosecutors also rearrested Kikukawa, Mori, Yamada and Nakagawa on suspicion of also submitting false financial statements for the fiscal years ended in March 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Japan’s securities watchdog requested that prosecutors file criminal charges against the individuals involved in the scandal and the company itself.

Olympus executives could face up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of about $125,000, lawyers have said. The company could be fined $1.2 million for false accounting.

Olympus is suing five of its eight internal directors, including current President Shuichi Takayama for mismanagement. 

IHS buys Displaybank

Technology analyst house IHS has bought another market research company, Displaybank, which will help it spread into consulting for the flat panel display industry.

The buy is also IHS’ first buy of an APAC based company. With its headquarters in Korea, Displaybank has been pretty well positioned to keep an eye on the ebb and flow of panel supply. It also has offices in Taiwan, China, Japan and the US.

As you would expect, Displaybank’s role is despatching an army of beancounters to look over the markets with fine tooth combs. Companies then pay it lots of money for advisory. Many of the electronics industry’s biggest players have their fingers in some panel-related pie. Whether it’s selling tellies or factories at full capacity, IHS knows it can convince businesses to hand over lots of money for its reports. IHS claims that flat panel execs and decision makers would be lost without Displaybank, and that is thanks to its “strong primary footprint” in Asia.

There is some opportunity to take a closer look at semiconductor specific based research in the region for it too, IHS thinks.

IHS chief exec Jerre Stead said the Asia Pacific region is “critical to our company’s growth”. Last year, IHS bought semiconductor supply chain analysts, iSuppli.


Elpida down but not out

Despite the fact that it is bankrupt, Japanese chipmaker Elpida claims that it is down but not out.

According to the Japan Times, Elpida plans to craft a restructuring plan by April which could allow it to continue in a reduced form.

After a meeting with the company’s creditors, President Yukio Sakamoto, said that Elpida will choose a sponsor soon to help rebuild Japan’s sole manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory chips used in personal computers and other devices

More than 800 people who are owed money by Elpida were at the meeting. Sakamoto said sorry for the failure while informing them that several companies have offered to help Elpida.

He did not name the companies who might pull Elpida’s nadgers out of the fire, but they appear to include the US chip-maker Micron and Taiwan’s Nanya.

But despite this help, the people at the meeting were not so certain that the company would be able to agree who would be the best help to take.

Other creditors are more concerned about getting their money back rather than any rescue deal and they might press for assets to be sold off to the highest bidder.

Certainly a restructured Elpida would still have a problem taking on the fierce competition and over supply in the DRAM industry. Particularly when the industry is tipped to stabilise itself thanks to Elpida’s troubles.

Chip prices on the rise

Chip prices shot up after Elpida announced that it was going bankrupt. It seems that rather than holding a wake for their fallen competators, the remaining DRAM makers got on the blower and immediately jacked up the prices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the heart warming tale of business caring and sharing is a good thing as it will tighten global supply in the short term.

Share prices of Elpida-rivals Samsung, Hynix and Micron were also higher after Elpida announced it filed for bankruptcy protection with debt exceeding $5.5 billion.

Elpida is Japan’s last remaining maker of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips.

But there are hopes that the survivors will start making money after years of oversupply and paper thin margins.

Barclays Capital said today that Elpida’s bankruptcy will likely be a “sentimental increase in DRAM price”. This has us puzzled as we have never seen a price increase for old times’ sake and wonder what one would look like.

Spot prices of DRAM chips surged by more than 13 percent, according to beancounters at DRAMeXchange.

Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Yuichi Ishida told the Wall Street Journal that Elpida’s demise may prop up chip prices, as DRAM makers should have more bargaining power with major clients buying on contract.

Other analysts claim that Korean DRAM makers will be laughing manically while dancing all night in Karaoke bars on the back of the news. They have good reaon. They should gain market share and benefit from less competition, allowing them to cope with the volatile industry cycle over the medium-to-long term.

Elpida said Monday that it is seeking a sponsor as part of its “rehabilitation process” so that it can ring someone up if feels like it needs another substantial loss.

Hopes that Elipida might find someone to bail it out out of rehab were dashed when Samsung said no, no, no. 

Elpida goes bankrupt

Elpida Memory has gone bankrupt as prices for its main product plunged to a record low.

According a filing with Japan’s finance ministry, the company owes $5.5 billion and checking down the back of the sofa is not going to cut it.

Elpida makes DRAM and it was struggling to meet its debt payments for April. It said that it saw “uncertainty” over remaining in business because it might not have the necessary financing. The outfit had been hoping to reach a deal with the trade ministry, the Development Bank of Japan and its main lenders over financing for 92 billion yen in bonds and loans due by April. It looks like they finally said no.

It is likely that in the short term bankruptcy for Elpida would help its beleagued Taiwanese rivals. It could lead to a short term supply shortage as Elpida restructures or is taken over.

At the moment, there are too many chips out there and prices are too low. Bloomberg thinks that the big winner of Elpida’s woes will be Nanya.

However, Elpida going bankrupt might cause bigger problems for the stressed Japanese economy. It is the country’s biggest crash since Japan Airlines went under in January 2010 with 2.32 trillion yen in liabilities.

Elpida has 5,898 people and these are not the sorts of numbers that the government would want jobless. However, so far, Elpida has been a bottomless pit for government money and it seems that everyone thinks it is time to have it put down. 

Amazon Japan accused of propping up whale hunting

When Amazon isn’t building desert shantytowns to ship goods from its warehouses, it’s allegedly complicit in selling the Japanese delicacy of whale meat.

Its Japanese subsidiary, at amazon.co.jp, had 147 different whale products for sale. The subsidiary is fully owned by Amazon.

A report last year from the Humane Society International, called Amazon.com’s Unpalatable Profits, brought Amazon Japan to book about products like canned whale meat, whale jerky, whale bacon and whale stew, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A third of the products in the report were no-label mystery meat while much of the other products had unusually high mercury levels.

Japan has long been the arch-enemy of the common whale. Organisations like Greenpeace insist that whales are endangered animals and should not be hunted, while the Japanese government has proved resistant to reforms or banning the practice.

It looks like Amazon is bowing to pressure, the SMH says. A spokesperson for Amazon said: “The items you referenced are not available for sale”. A search for whale meat no longer returns any products.

Suicide man nothing to do with Olympus scandal

The Olympus executive found hanging in a park in India had no link to the Japanese endoscope maker’s accounting scandal, the company says.

Tsutomu Omori, 49, head of the firm’s medical equipment business in India, was found hanged outside his apartment in suburban Delhi in an apparent suicide.

Olympus told Reuters that there was no immediate suggestion his death was tied to the $1.7 billion fraud that has rocked corporate Japan and led to the arrest of senior executives in Tokyo.

The Olympus spokeswoman said that it would be difficult to see how he could have been involved as Omori was a salesman who had been out of Japan for a long time.

She said that he was never involved in the financial area of Olympus and was not a target of investigation by Olympus’s third-party panel and other panels that the firm has set up, she said.

But she added that the the company would not know whether he was being investigated or approached by police and prosecutors.

Police in India found two handwritten notes, one in Japanese and the other in English, at Omori’s home. The English note read, “I am sorry for bothering you,” while the note in Japanese had yet to be translated. 

Olympus executives arrested

Police in Japan have fingered the collar of three former executives of Olympus over their role in an alleged $1.7 billion accounting fraud.

The three had been identified by an investigative panel, which was commissioned by the company, as the main culprits in the alleged fraud. Apparently they were trying to cover risky investments that Olympus made in the late-1980’s bubble economy.

Ex-President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada have all been arrested on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law.

Four others have been arrested including former bankers Akio Nakagawa and Nobumasa Yokoo who is alleged to have helped executives hide huge investment losses through complex deals.

Olympus is banking on an April meeting marking a turning point in the scandal, with at least six of its 11 member board, including President Shuichi Takayama, set to resign.

According to Reuters, his successor will be one of three board members the panel said were not responsible for the cover-up, to wit Masataka Suzuki, Kazuhiro Watanabe and Shinichi Nishigaki. 

Renesas, Fujitsu and Panasonic to merge chip operations

Three chip makers, Renesas, Fujitsu and Panasonic, have decided that the only way they can compete is by merging their operations.

According to Reuters, the three have been seen locked in intense discussions in a smoke filled room trying to iron out a deal that they can all live with.

The big idea is to spin off their system chip design and development divisions, with production to be transferred to GlobalFoundries which wants to set up a company in Japan.

It looks like the government’s investment fund, Innovation Network, will be helping out by providing lots of cash for the project.

The Nikkei claims that Elpida executives and GlobalFoundries would meet this week to discuss a possible sale of Elpida’s Hiroshima factory.

Elpida has said that elements of the report were not true, but did not point out what.