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Japan's Banks See Record Profits

Japan's top banks made record profits in 2005, while Toyota Motor Corporation plans to become the world's largest carmaker in four years.

Japan's six major banks made record profits for the 2005 (fiscal) year that ended on March 31. The number of their bad loans declined due to the country's economic recovery and to improved ratings by creditors.

The banks recorded combined profits of $26.4 billion in 2005, an all-time record that is four times more than the previous year and nearly twice the previous record (of $18 billion) made in 1990 during the so-called bubble economy.

The head of Mitsubishi U.F.J. Financial Group, Nobuo Kuroyanagi, said despite the record profits the banks still need a long-term strategy to increase profitability.

"Since we haven't paid back all the money the government lent us we are still using tax money to run our business," he said. "The reality is that we are still not out of trouble."

In other business news, Toyota Motor Corporation plans to overtake General Motors as the world's largest carmaker, in terms of annual car production, by the end of 2010.

The company plans to build 10 new plants overseas, which would give it a total of 41 assembly plants worldwide. The new factories will allow Toyota to produce more than 10 million cars a year, an increase of three million cars per year.

G.M. currently produces nine million cars per year, but it plans to shut down some of its plants as part of a major restructuring program.

Toyota will build the new plants in the United States, Canada, Thailand and possibly northern France.

Japanese consumers by this summer will be able to play up to 500 songs and listen to music for 30 hours on their mobile phones without re-charging their batteries.

K.D.D.I., Japan's second-largest mobile phone company, is to market Sony Corporation's Walkman-brand mobile phone.

The new phone, created with Sony Ericsson (Mobile Communications A.B.), can play music longer than K.D.D.I.'s current model.

Officials hope that the famous "Walkman" brand will make the phone popular.

Montague Farms in the United States has created a new soybean called "Vanatto" for the Japanese market. The bean has a strong, pungent odor and a cheesy flavor.

Vanatto is a new variety of Japan's "Natto" bean, which the Japanese eat as a paste over their breakfast rice and in soups.

The farm last year sent more than 10,000 tons of Natto, which has a sticky texture, to Japan and will increase capacity by opening a processing and export facility near Windsor, Virginia, this fall.