Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Japanese buy into oil sands

Don't forget Japan.
The first story is from the Financial Post:
Japan's Inpex Holdings Inc. expanded its global reach on Tuesday, announcing on its website the purchase of a 10% stake in Deer Creek Energy Ltd.'s Joslyn oil sands project....MORE
And from The American:

Make Way for Japan

All eyes have focused on China lately, but Japan’s economy is nearly twice as large. More important, the ‘lost years’ of economic stagnation are over. Japan is back, and Japan is different. ROWAN CALLICK looks at why Japan changed, its new reform spirit in economics and politics, and its relations with the U.S. and with its obsession, China.

With all of the fear, loathing, and envy directed by many Americans toward China—the world’s factory, selling 1 percent of its entire gross domestic product to Wal-Mart alone—it is getting harder to remember that just 20 years ago it was the economic rise of another Asian country that was inspiring an even greater popular furor: Japan. Audiences flocked to “Gung Ho,” Ron Howard’s folksy 1986 film about a Japanese corporation buying up an automobile firm in the Rust Belt. A few years later, Michael Crichton’s racy novel Rising Sun, imagining a Japanese plot to seize control of the U.S. computer industry, sold 200,000 copies. And congressmen were smashing Japanese-made consumer electronics—believed to be competing unfairly—on the lawn of the Capitol.

Today, the pop-culture image of Tokyo as a hotbed of ravenous corporations bent on taking over the world has been replaced by a somewhat friendlier construction, though no less cartoonish: Tokyo as exotic (and not entirely comprehensible) fantasy land. Compare “Gung Ho” with Sofia Coppola’s 2003 indie hit “Lost in Translation,” in which Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson escape their problems in the city’s luxury hotels and fuzzy-neon streets. Or consider the highly publicized show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York this spring that featured Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, known for what The New York Times calls “his smiley-faced flowers and colorful mushrooms” and his pop-art paintings of Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. Murakami is a true talent and global phenomenon, but if we judge by the headlines, Japan for Americans today is known mainly for crazy fashions (popularized by singer Gwen Stefani and her “Harajuku girls”), bizarre customs, and a “lost generation” of videogame addicts.

What Japan is emphatically not, at least in the public mind, is a serious threat to American economic vitality. Endearing images of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi touring Graceland with President Bush in 2006 made the primetime news; a year later, current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s more business-focused visit to the United States did not.

But we ignore Japan at our peril. While China gets all the attention, Japan, still firmly ensconced in second place among the world’s economic powers, is quietly enjoying its longest period of sustained growth since World War II.

Japan’s global brands have never been stronger: Toyota surpassed General Motors in car and truck sales for the first quarter of 2007, knocking it out of the world’s top spot for the first time in 76 years; patent royalties deriving from Japanese inventiveness hit $4.2 billion in 2006. Sony and Canon, Honda and Panasonic, Fujitsu and Hitachi: throughout the world, Japanese brands are respected and profitable. By contrast, despite the best efforts of personal-computer giant Lenovo and white-goods producer Haier, China has yet to build a single brand that most Americans could name. Japan is back....MORE