As the first step, Itochu is slated to join as early as this summer a wind power project in the U.S. state of Oklahoma that GE is currently pursuing at a total cost of roughly 30 billion yen. The facilities are slated to have a generating capacity of 150,000 kilowatts. Itochu plans to take a stake in the operating company and may also participate in the development of other large wind energy projects in the U.S.
The two companies have already jointly developed several power generation projects in the United States, such as Fox Energy Center in Kaukauna, Wisconsin and the Green Country Energy project in Jenks, Oklahoma.
Under President Barack Obama’s new energy policy, the U.S. solar power generation market is expected to grow by 40 percent per year. So far, Japanese solar power ventures have focused mainly on Europe.
Still In The Game
San Francisco-based Zynga, the biggest maker of social games on Facebook, has raised $147 million from Japan’s Softbank, according to Bloomberg. Zynga is in the midst of diversifying its revenue base from the U.S.-heavy Facebook into the global mobile games market, including Japan’s.
With its mobile phone services and deep reach in the region, SoftBank can help Zynga distribute its games in Japan and Asia. A corporate filing revealed in April showed that Zynga was preparing to raise a large amount of money in new shares and warrants. Warrants, a form of stock options issued to corporations, are often used in strategic partnerships.
Last fall, Zynga raised $180 million from Russia’s DST, which is also an investor in Facebook. Zynga needs to show investors that, despite its dependence on Facebook for much of its current revenue, it is a business with a big future. To position itself for an initial public offering, or just further investment, Zynga has buttressed its business with a variety of growth engines.
Meanwhile, Japan’s venture capital industry continues to flounder. According to the Nikkei, investments from the nation’s top 20 VC firms dropped a whopping 40 percent in fiscal 2009 to $711 million.
In a separate survey, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry found out that at $1.1. billion in 2009, total investments of national VCs were the lowest since 1995, when the ministry began conducting its survey.
Managers, Mind Your (Official) Language
Managers at Fast Retailing Co., operator of casual clothing chain Uniqlo, will have to use mainly English at meetings and in documents as of March 2012, following the lead of globally-attuned Japanese firms such as Nissan and Rakuten. “This move is necessary for a Japanese company to survive as a global corporation,” Fast Retailing Chairman and President Tadashi Yanai told the Mainichi on June 23.
As Fast Retailing embarks on an aggressive overseas expansion plan, the firm has decided that using English as a common language is necessary to successfully go global. By the time of the launch of the new strategy, employees will be required to earn a Test of English for International Communication (TOeic) score of 700 or more, which Yanai calls “the minimum level which would enable an employee to fulfill his or her duties abroad.”
Executives and store managers in non-English speaking countries, including Japan and China, will be obligated to undergo English communication training.
Fast Retailing will also standardize the pay systems for executives worldwide and transfer employees at the store manager level to overseas posts on a routine basis. Moreover, the company plans to increase the ratio of foreigners when hiring new graduates, aiming to make them half of the 600 new recruits in 2011, two-thirds of the 1,000 recruits in 2012, and three-fourths of the 1,500 recruits in 2013.
Fast Retailing now has 809 stores in Japan and 133 outlets abroad—54 in China, 48 in South Korea, 17 in Europe, 13 in Hong Kong, and one in the United States, but it plans to further accelerate the opening of its overseas stores as it believes the Japanese market will hit its peak in the near future mainly due to the country’s continuing population decline.