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Japan's Business Confidence Rises

Japan's business confidence continues to rise, and NTT DoCoMo is in talks with South Korea's mobile provider, KT Freetel. This and more in our weekly look at business news in Japan.

Japan's business confidence rose for the third straight quarter, according to the Bank of Japan's tankan report - a survey of large, medium and small businesses.

Edwin Merner, the president of Atlantis Investment Corporation, says the survey shows Japan's overall economic trend is good, although some business people had expected an even more upbeat report.

"But, smaller business continued to show recovery, and it's the trend, which is important," said Edwin Merner. "It's been driven not only by exporting, but more importantly by consumer spending, and also by capital investments. These three things are helping to improve the economy and how people feel about the economy, and how they feel about the outlook for the economy."

Japan's NTT DoCoMo is planning to expand in Asian markets. The company is now in talks with South Korea's second biggest mobile provider, KT Freetel, about a possible alliance. The deal would be worth between $500 million and $600 million, and would give DoCoMo a 10 percent interest in KT Freetel.

The companies said an agreement would probably be reached this month.

DoCoMo, which is Japan's largest mobile phone service provider, also plans to invest $6 million in a mobile provider in Shanghai.

Several global banks may give up their windfall profits from Mizuho Securities' error earlier this month on Tokyo's Stock Exchange. Mizuho mistakenly placed an order to sell 610,000 shares of J-Com, a recruitment company, for only one yen each, or less than one cent. But it had intended to sell one share for about $5,000.

Investors who noticed the error snatched up J-Com shares at giveaway prices, costing Mizuho about $333 million.

Japan's Finance Ministry says the investment bank, Morgan Stanley, could gain nearly $12 million from Mizuho's error. Some of the other investment banks that profited were Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse First Boston and Japanese banks Nikko Cordial Securities and Nomura Holdings.

But, now, the banks are talking to Japan's Financial Services Agency about giving back their earnings to Mizuho.

Toyota Motor Corporation will construct a new plant in Thailand for its Hilux pickup trucks in early 2007.

The company plans to manufacture about 100,000 trucks a year at the plant. It will cost Toyota $342 million to build the plant, and create nearly 2,000 jobs.