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Major Japanese Ad Agency to Ally With Smaller Counterparts

Japan's second largest advertising company, Hakuhodo, will team up with two smaller regional agencies next year. The alliance is the latest sign of consolidation in an industry hard hit by the country's sluggish economy.

The new company will become the world's eighth-largest ad agency and will compete with Japanese industry leader Dentsu.

In the financial sector, the world's largest bank in terms of assets takes its restructuring plan one step further. Mizuho Holdings will merge two trust-banking units early next year. The move will create a new holding company that will trade on the stock market.

The decision comes as the bank speeds up cost-cutting measures and attempts to boost profits.

Mizuho Holdings President Terunobu Maeda tells reporters that his task is to cut in half the bank's huge portfolio of non-performing loans. He says he wants to come up with various ways to deal with the issue.

The government is pressuring Mizuho Holdings and many other Japanese banks to clean up their bad debts, which are blamed in large part for the country's decade-long recession.

Japan's number three mobile phone carrier will soon begin much-awaited third generation services. J-Phone says the latest technology allows users to talk on its handsets and send text messages in at least 50 countries.

The company, which is majority owned by British telecom giant Vodafone,is targeting frequent overseas travelers and corporate users. J-Phone hopes its international roaming capability will attract subscribers from rival operators, and aims to sign up one million new users by the end of next year.