,are required to provide all kinds of support," Toshiba spokesman HirokiYamazaki said.The new venture's prime purpose will be to win the next Vietnam nuclear plantbid, in 2011, he said."It is quite rational for these makers to shift focus to infrastructure business fromelectronics because they already have a strong business background in heavyindustry," Standard & Poor's Shibata said."Also, they don't have to get involved in heated price competition (in theinfrastructure business) like what they experience in the electronics andsemiconductor sectors," Shibata said. "They can also take advantage of their technology for safety and environmental friendliness in the infrastructurebusiness."Hitachi and Toshiba have been hit hard in recent years by low-priced SouthKorean, Taiwanese and Chinese home appliances and semiconductors.Another big reason these companies and the government are uniting againstoverseas competitors is the recent, and stunning, failure of Japanese firms towin international bids for nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates andVietnam.The United Arab Emirates, which plans to start operating its first nuclear plant in2017 and another three by 2020, in December selected a South Koreanconsortium that made a $20 billion bid. Experts say a visit by South KoreanPresident Lee Myung Bak and his negotiations played a big role in thesuccessful bid.Then came Vietnam's reported decision in February to select Russia's state-runRosatom Corp. to build two of four nuclear plants that were approved lastNovember by Hanoi as the nation's first atomic plants. Russia reportedly evenoffered a submarine in a package deal.Hitachi's efforts are bearing fruit in the railway sector.The company grabbed the spotlight in December when it rolled out Britain's firstbullet trains, the Class 395. Now 174 of them run between London and Kent at amaximum speed of 225 kph. Hitachi won the order in 2005 amid competitionwith overseas giants.Hitachi, which specializes in building trains, had support from East JapanRailway Co. to meet the demand for rail operations and maintenance in Britain.Hitachi also tied up with Mitsubishi Heavy in June to widen the train lineup,Hitachi spokesman Katsunori Shimokawara said.Hitachi's experience in London led to a much bigger order — up to 1,400 trainsfor the Intercity Express Program that runs between London and Edinburgh,although the order is now under reconsideration by Britain's new government.Hitachi is waiting for Britain's final decision on the IEP, which was delayed byBritain's general election in May.Meanwhile, Hitachi plans to ship about 600 Crossrail commuter trains to Londonstarting in 2015 and have HS2 rapid trains running between London andMidland from 2020."We believe Britain and China will become the big markets for us,"Shimokawara said. "Hitachi is aiming for ¥350 billion in sales in fiscal 2015, 60percent of which will be earned overseas."The company hopes to win orders in Brazil, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, hesaid.Unlike in Japan, where train manufacturers do only that, overseas they canengage in a wider range of business, including rail system maintenance.In emerging markets, train makers not only provide maintenance but also runoperations.Because of the wide need for support to introduce energy plants and railwaysoverseas, governmental involvement is inevitable to win contracts, Shibata said.
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A piece of your mind
English in Japan Inc.?
Rakuten, Fast Retailing Co. and other Japanesecompanies aremaking English their officiallanguage. What's your take on this?
It's too extreme to demand this of allemployees.Companies should offer financialincentives to employees who pay forlanguage lessons.This is just a publicity stunt topromote these companies' newdirections.As theDalai Lama advises, emphasisshould be on communication, notperfect grammar.Great idea. More companies shouldfollow suit.Encouraging staff to learn English isfine, but firing people over not beingproficient is unfair.
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