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Japanese, Chinese Business Leaders Air Differences

Japanese and China business leaders failed to bridge their differences over the issue of technology transfer during a high-profile conference in Tokyo.

Chinese participants argued that Japanese companies, especially automakers and electronics manufacturers, have not brought key technologies to their country. But Japanese businessmen countered that China's licensing system has too many restrictions and most of the country does not have adequate infrastructure to handle state-of-the-art technologies.

In a speech to the group, the head of Keidanren, Japan's leading business federation, Hiroshi Okuda, said business leaders in both countries need to understand that it would be mutually beneficial to work together more closely.

Mr. Okuda, who also is chairman of automaker Toyota, says such cooperation is essential now that China has become Japan's top trading partner.

Struggling electronics maker Sony, hoping to regain its once dominant position in television manufacturing, is predicting global sales of more than 2.5 million units of its new liquid-crystal display television sets.

Sony Executive Deputy President Katsumi Ihara says the new Bravia line replaces the Wega brand. Mr. Ihara says this week's domestic rollout of six new models is essential to revive the business and the company is targeting a 30-percent share of the Japanese LCD market.

Sony is producing the flat panels through a $2 billion joint venture with South Korea's Samsung Electronics.

American investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase is cashing out of Sony's four-year-old online banking unit. The American company says it has sold its 2.2 percent stake in Sony Bank to Sony Financial Holdings.

The price of the 15,000 shares has not been made public.

A J.P. Morgan Chase representative says the sale is unrelated to Sony Bank's weak earnings.

For the first time, a Japanese rating company has downgraded Japan Airlines' bonds to so-called "junk" status. Japan Ratings and Investment Information cut its ranking for the air carrier's bonds two notches below investment grade to double-B. Junk status indicates the bonds are considered risky.

JAL has been beset this year by rising fuel bills and a string of safety violations.