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Japan Reports Drop in Corporate Bankruptcies - 2004-02-20

Japanese corporate bankruptcies have fallen and Coca-Cola's Japan unit has plans to introduce two new drinks.

Corporate bankruptcies continue to fall in Japan.

Research agency Teikoku Databank says bankruptcies fell 16 percent in January from a year earlier to about 1,200 cases. That marks the 13th consecutive month of decline.

The combined debts left by insolvent companies also dropped, down 63 percent to $4.3 billion. Economists say more government aid for struggling small and medium-sized firms is helping cut bankruptcies.

Japan's second-largest automaker and the world's largest jet engine maker are teaming up to produce a new engine for light business jets. Honda Motor and General Electric of the United States will jointly manufacture and market an engine, called the HF 118 turbofan, already developed by Honda. They hope to emerge as a big player in light jets, a growth area of aviation.

Honda's President Takeo Fukui told reporters that Honda has long wanted to enter the aviation industry.

He says Honda has been working on this project for nearly 20 years and the deal fulfills the ambitions of the company's founder.

Mr. Fukui also said it would take at least five years for the venture to make a profit. Other Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi and Toyota, are now considering moves into aviation, inspired by Honda's example.

Coca-Cola's Japanese unit will introduce a drink next month that tastes like beer but contains almost no alcohol. The carbonated beverage will be called Sky Malt and will be sold only to those 20 years and older. Coca-Cola plans to sell another beverage in Japan starting in May - it will taste like a cocktail, but contains just a dash of alcohol and will be called Sokkahappo - which means "a quick burst of bubbles" in Japanese.