Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 340, January 1998

Issue Index

 Japanese Companies in the US


MELCO INC., one of Japan's top two suppliers of memory and performance enhancement products, is in the process of acquiring a 68.1 percent stake in TECHWORKS INC., an Austin, Texas company that also is in the memory upgrade business. The move will extend the Nagoya-based firm's production and sales reach to the United States and Europe, where TechWorks has a plant (Ireland) and a sales subsidiary (Great Britain). The 100-employee TechWorks offers more than 200 memory add-on products for roughly 2,500 Wintel and Macintosh computer systems. It had 1996 revenues of $97 million.

Developing high-performance, cost-effective 64-bit microprocessors for consumer electronics and multimedia applications is the goal of an agreement in principle between HITACHI, LTD. and SGS-THOMSON MICROELECTRONICS INC. The foundation for the collaboration will be the Japanese company's SuperH RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) microprocessor architecture. The Carrollton, Texas company, which is strong in microcontrollers for consumer applications, will contribute its know-how in 64-bit microprocessors. The resulting series — Hitachi's SH-5 and SGS-Thomson's ST50 — will be targeted at such uses as interactive set-top boxes, digital video products and automotive multimedia systems. Under the pending arrangement, SGS-Thomson also will be able to license Hitachi's 32-bit SH-3 series, which supports the Windows CE operating system, and the recently introduced SH-4 family.

In the latest phase of a long-running technology partnership, NEC CORP. licensed its 32-bit V850 microcontroller family core to the Microelectronics Group of LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES INC. The Murray Hill, New Jersey company will integrate the core into its 0.25-micron and 0.35-micron Silicon Suite system-level integrated circuit offerings. The V850 core, which is based on NEC's 32-bit RISC microcontroller architecture, delivers high-speed performance (38 million instructions per second at 33 MHz) while operating at just 3.3 volts. Lucent's version will be available to its customers in April.

NEC CORP. is backing a cooperative effort by MOTOROLA INC. and SGS-THOMSON MICROELECTRONICS INC. to develop an interoperability standard for contactless smart cards and readers. The trio will work together to ensure that their contactless microcontroller products not only will be compatible with each other but also will conform with an international standard now being drafted.

What is being called the world's first single-chip digital television video decoder has emerged from the Burlington, New Jersey research facility of PANASONIC AVC AMERICAN LABORATORIES, INC. The low-cost device is designed for digital and high-definition television receivers as well as digital set-top boxes that work with today's analog TV sets. It either decodes digital signals for display in their original format or converts them for use in current-generation TV sets. Digital TV broadcasting will start in the United States this fall. PAVCAL is the main North American digital television research facility of MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.

For an undisclosed price, semiconductor production equipment manufacturer TOKYO ELECTRON LTD. will buy the core business of MATERIALS RESEARCH CORP., a wholly owned subsidiary of SONY CORP. The transaction, scheduled to close February 1, involves the Gilbert, Arizona-based MRC's Semiconductor Equipment division, which makes metal CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and PVD (physical vapor deposition) or sputtering equipment. The sale is the latest and biggest step in the restructuring of money-losing MRC, which Sony bought in 1989. MRC had 1996 sales of $185 million. Its semiconductor equipment division has 330 employees in the United States, Asia and Europe. TEL will set up a company in Gilbert to take over the operation. MRC's remaining business is sputtering targets.

An exchange rate of ¥130=$1.00 was used in this report.

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