ICT trends for Japan for 2009

Smartphones, European exits from Japan, and M&A

ICT trends for Japan: Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) remain engaged in Japan’s ICT sector

One of the Embassies here in Tokyo asked me to write a report about ICT trends for Japan…

ICT trends for Japan: Mobile phone sector

Pushed by the Government the mobile operators changed the business model for mobile phone sales from a straight subsidy model to an installment payment system. As a consequence the mobile phone sales collapsed, creating huge difficulties for Japan’s mobile phone makers, but greatly improving the financial results of mobile operators.

Smart phones grow market share in Japan

An interesting trend is the growth of the “smart-phone” market (Blackberry, HTC-Windows-Mobile phones, iPhone etc.) and mini-PCs, which can be acquired for YEN 1 with subsidy from eMobile.

In this context the Japanese telecom equipment makers association invited me to give a presentation, which was booked out 2-3 weeks ahead – about 100 Japanese telecom equipment maker managers attended! The General Affairs Vice-Minister / Secretary of State attended…. ( download my presentation here – in Japanese language: “Paradigm shift and opportunities for Japanese mobile phone makers” )

Nokia terminates mobile phone business in Japan

On November 27th, 2008, global press announcements announced that NOKIA will stop making mobile phones for Japan’s mobile operators with immediate effect. DoCoMo and SoftBank had NOKIA phones in preparation and had already started marketing efforts – these were cancelled a few days after NOKIA’s press announcement.

NOKIA had founded the Japan subsidiary on March 3rd, 1989, almost exactly 20 years ago, thus NOKIA has given up entering Japan’s mobile phone market after 20 years of efforts. NOKIA will not totally shut down in Japan, NOKIA announced that R&D and procurement will continue, and VERTU announced to enter Japan’s market with a mobile vertual network operator (MVNO) model renting network capacity from DoCoMo, and opening own shops.- However the opening of these direct VERTU stores keep being postponed.

NOKIA joins the row of European telecom companies which have given up operations in Japan: Vodafone, Cable & Wireless.

Nokia Siemens Networks (SNS) is continuing business in Japan as well, so NOKIA will not be entirely gone from Japan.


European company’s acquisitions in Japan are currently at low levels, including the ICT sector. By far the largest acquisition in Japan by a company from the European/Mediterranian area was not by an EU company, but by the Israeli company Iscar which acquired the Japanese company Tungaloy for around US$ 1 Billion. However, this acquisition was driven by US capital. Read details in our blog here.

In the opposite direction, Japanese acquisitions in EU and elsewhere, there is a boom of acquisitions by Japanese companies abroad. For example, TDK acquired the German company EPCOS, Fujitsu acquired the outstanding 1/2 of Fujitsu-Siemens, NTT-Data acquired 72.9% of Cirquent which was a 98% subsidiary of BMW before. SONY acquired the outstanding 1/2 of the SONY-Bertelsmann Music Group from Bertelsmann.

The current trend is definitely a strengthening of Japanese acquisitions in Europe.

The most important issue however are not the acquisition transactions themselves, but the crucial issue will be whether these acquisitions create or destroy value. In many cases the difficulties to overcome “cross-cultural” issues are enormous. Many huge wrecks line the road: Vodafone-Japan, Cable-Wireless-Japan, NOKIA’s mobile phone business in Japan, or DoCoMo’s overseas acquisitions. There are also many success stories – the most impressive and famous one Nissan-Renault, however there are many more. An interesting case in progress is Nippon-Sheet-Glass (now NSG Group)’s acquisition of Pilkington Glass (read about a presentation by NSG’s CEO here in our blog).

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  • You would expect that Sony’s acquisition of the BMG half should have a low risk and a high chance of integration success, for the same reasons as Fujitsu should succeed with the Siemens transaction. This of course depends on the exact operating and governance structures and HR structures that existed in those 1/2:1/2 operations before. Without knowing that I would in any case venture an opinion that Fujitsu would be the most likely to fail to deliver the benefits to shareholders.

    As far as NTT-Data and Cirquent I predict total waste of shareholder’s money for numerous management and business culture and expectation reasons, and we’ll wait and see. It won’t take too long to find out – they’ll know within 12 months, admit it within 24 months, and write it off within 36 months – its the same old story over again. I know its not a direct comparison but NTT Docomo’s (repeatedly) failed international business expansion carries some of the insights for the likely failure of the NTT Data one.

    Walter Adamson
    Melbourne, Australia