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Japan Plans Postal Reform


Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has won a big battle toward accomplishing a major goal of his administration - privatizing Japan's mail delivery, postal savings and related insurance services.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda says the prime minister has compelled the government to finally act on privatizing Japan Post's $3.25 trillion of assets. Mr. Hosoda says the prime minister's leadership has prompted the government to finally act on the plan.

Opponents of the plan forced it to be watered down after protests from Japan Post's 400,000 workers, worried about job security.

In the latest compromise, the 10-year privatization project will start in 2007. Japan Post will be split into separate entities under a holding company for mail delivery, savings, insurance and over-the-counter services.

Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui says the central bank has decided to leave its ultra-loose monetary policy in place. However, Japan's top banker told reporters that the nine-member board was not unanimous in the decision.

Mr. Fukui also predicts the economy is on the brink of recovery. He made the rosy prediction despite a survey by the bank showing a big drop in business sentiment.

Mr. Fukui says he expects the economy to improve because inventory sell-offs in the information technology sector have run their course and that should boost production and exports.

Car-maker Toyota and auto-parts maker Denso are to build a compressor plant in China, with a total investment of one billion yen. The plant will begin production in one year.

The Kunshan plant, near Shanghai, is to supply energy-efficient compressors for air conditioners of cars made in China at plants operated by Toyota, General Motors and Daimler Chrysler.

Japan's biggest green tea beverage maker says it is changing the taste of its top-selling brand for the first time in 17 years. Ito En says the revamped Oi Ocha drink will have a mellower flavor.

Ito En is trying to fend off competitors, despite the company's market dominance, with annual sales of $1.5 billion and double-digit growth for the tea for the past nine years.

With sales of green tea beverages increasing and traditional soft drinks declining, competitors such as Coca-Cola, Suntory and Kirin have been moving in on Ito-En's turf.