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Major Japanese Photographic Companies Join Forces - 2003-01-10

Konica and Minolta, which make cameras and office equipment, will merge later this year. The move reflects serious competition from bigger rivals such as Sony, Canon and Ricoh.

The merger is likely to create a Konica-controlled entity with a current market value of four-billion dollars. Executives say they plan to slash four-thousand jobs or 10 percent of their combined work force.

Konica President Fumio Iwai commented on the merger, saying he believes that integrating the two companies will result in a powerhouse.

In earnings news, a popular Japanese casual clothing retailer posted significantly lower monthly sales. Fast Retailing says its sales in December fell 30 percent from a year earlier. That marks the 15th double digit drop in a row. The company is facing heavy pressure from competitors and has further slashed prices amid deflation and the sluggish Japanese economy.

Honda's Fit compact car has surpassed Toyota's Corolla as the best selling model in Japan last year. The shift is significant, because the Corolla has held the top position for 34 years.

Honda sold more than 250,000 Fit cars in Japan last year after launching it in 2001. Customers say they like its high fuel efficiency and spacious interior. Toyota's Corolla came in second, followed by Nissan's March.