Keiretsu
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A is a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings. In the legal sense, it is a type of informal business group that are loosely organized alliances within the social world of Japan's business community. The ''keiretsu'' system dominated the Japanese economy for the second half of the 20th century, following the dissolution of the ''
zaibatsu is a Japanese term referring to industrial and financial vertically integrated business conglomerates in the Empire of Japan, whose influence and size allowed control over significant parts of the Japanese economy from the Meiji period ...
'' after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposi ...
, and, to a lesser extent, continues to do so in the early 21st century. The members' companies own small portions of the shares in each other's companies, centered on a core bank; this system helps insulate each company from stock market fluctuations and
takeover In business, a takeover is the purchase of one company (the ''target'') by another (the ''acquirer'' or ''bidder''). In the UK, the term refers to the acquisition of a public company A public company is a company whose ownership is organ ...
attempts, thus enabling long-term planning in projects. It is a key element of the manufacturing industry in Japan.


History

The prototypical ''keiretsu'' appeared during the Japanese economic miracle which followed
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposi ...
, amid the dissolution of family-controlled vertical monopolies called ''
zaibatsu is a Japanese term referring to industrial and financial vertically integrated business conglomerates in the Empire of Japan, whose influence and size allowed control over significant parts of the Japanese economy from the Meiji period ...
''. The ''zaibatsu'' had been at the heart of economic and industrial activity within the
Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 constitution and subsequent fo ...
since Japanese industrialization accelerated during the Meiji Era. They held great influence over Japanese national and foreign policies which only increased following the Japanese victories in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 and
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in ...
. During the inter-war period the ''zaibatsu'' aided Japanese militarism and benefited from their conquest of East Asia by receiving lucrative contracts. After the surrender of Japan the Allied occupation forces partially attempted to dissolve the ''zaibatsu'' which had worked closely with the militarists during the first half of the 20th century and during the war. However, the United States government later rescinded those orders in an effort to reindustrialize Japan as a bulwark against
Communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
in Asia, so the ''zaibatsu'' were never completely dissolved.


Types

The two types of ''keiretsu'', horizontal and vertical, can be further categorized as: * * *


Horizontal ''keiretsu''

The primary aspect of a horizontal'' keiretsu'' (also known as financial ''keiretsu'') is that it is set up around a Japanese bank through cross-shareholding relationships with other companies. The bank assists these companies with a range of financial services. The leading horizontal Japanese ''keiretsu'', also referred to as the "Big Six", include: Fuyo, Sanwa, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, and DKB Group. Horizontal ''keiretsu'' may also have vertical relationships, called branches. Horizontal ''keiretsu'' peaked around 1988, when over half of the value in the Japanese stock market consisted of cross-shareholdings. Since then, banks have gradually reduced their cross-shareholdings. The Japanese corporate governance code, effective from June 2015, requires listed companies to disclose a rationale for their cross-shareholdings. Partly as a result of this requirement, the three Japanese "megabanks" descended from the six major ''keiretsu'' banks (namely Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group) have indicated plans to further reduce their balance of cross-shareholding investments.


Vertical ''keiretsu''

Vertical ''keiretsu'' (also known as industrial or distribution'' keiretsu'') are used to link suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors of one industry. Banks have less influence on vertical ''keiretsu''. Examples of this type include
Toyota is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Toyota City, Aichi, Japan. It was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda and incorporated on . Toyota is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, producing about 10 ...
, Toshiba, and
Nissan , trading as Nissan Motor Corporation and often shortened to Nissan, is a Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer headquartered in Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Japan. The company sells its vehicles under the Nissan, Infiniti is the lu ...
. One or more sub-companies, arranged in tiers of importance, are created to benefit the parent company. Major suppliers form the second tier beneath the parent, and smaller manufacturing companies make up the third and fourth tiers. Those at the highest levels are most profitable, and most insulated from fluctuations in the market. Some vertical ''keiretsu'' may belong to one or another horizontal ''keiretsu''. Some vertical ''keiretsu'' are family businesses, such as the Hitotsubashi/Shogakukan, Kodansha and APA groups. Studies have found these vertical ''keiretsus,'' particularly those that belong to the same horizontal ''keiretsu'', are more likely to form alliances than the other types or even those companies where one or two have ''keiretsu'' affiliations. Vertical ''keiretsu'' is considered an effective and competitive organizational model in the car industry.


In Japan

During the occupation of Japan, under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur, a partially successful attempt was made to dissolve the ''
zaibatsu is a Japanese term referring to industrial and financial vertically integrated business conglomerates in the Empire of Japan, whose influence and size allowed control over significant parts of the Japanese economy from the Meiji period ...
'' in the late 1940s. Sixteen ''zaibatsu'' were targeted for complete dissolution, and 26 more for reorganization after dissolution. However, the companies formed from the dismantling of the ''zaibatsu'' were later reintegrated. The dispersed corporations were reinterlinked through share purchases to form horizontally integrated alliances across many industries. Where possible, ''keiretsu'' companies would also supply one another, making the alliances vertically integrated, as well. In this period, official government policy promoted the creation of robust trade corporations that could withstand heavy pressures from intensified trade competition. The major ''keiretsu'' were each centered on one bank, which lent money to the ''keiretsu'' member companies and held equity positions in the companies. Each bank had great control over the companies in the ''keiretsu'' and acted as a monitoring and emergency bail-out entity. One effect of this structure was to minimize the presence of
hostile takeover In business, a takeover is the purchase of one company A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity representing an association of people, whether natural, legal or a mixture of both, with a specific objective. Company members sha ...
s in Japan, because no entities could challenge the power of the banks. Although the divisions between them have blurred in recent years, there have been eight major postwar ''keiretsu'':
Toyota is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Toyota City, Aichi, Japan. It was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda and incorporated on . Toyota is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, producing about 10 ...
is considered the biggest of the vertically integrated ''keiretsu'' groups, although the company is rather considered as a "emerged" keiretsu, along with
Softbank is a Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of ...
, Seven & I Holdings Co. The banks at the top are not as large as normally required, so it is actually considered to be more horizontally integrated than other ''keiretsu''. The Japanese recession in the 1990s had profound effects on the ''keiretsu''. Many of the largest banks were hit hard by bad loan portfolios and forced to merge or go out of business. This had the effect of blurring the lines between the individual ''keiretsu'': Sumitomo Bank and Mitsui Bank, for instance, became Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in 2001, while Sanwa Bank (the banker for the Hankyu-Toho Group) became part of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Generally, these causes gave rise to a strong notion in the Japanese business community that the old ''keiretsu'' system was not an effective business model, and led to an overall loosening of ''keiretsu'' alliances. While they still exist, they are not as centralized or integrated as they were before the 2000s. For instance, many troubled Japanese companies are faced with a new reality in which receiving financial support from their main banks are getting harder and unlikelier than ever before. The companies include Sharp Corporation and Toshiba, both the iconic Japanese corporations that were forced to accept foreign investment in their aftermath of financial difficulties in 2010s. This changed environment, in turn, has led to a growing corporate acquisition industry in Japan, as companies are no longer able to be easily "bailed out" by their banks, as well as rising derivative litigation by more independent shareholders.


Outside Japan

The ''keiretsu'' model is fairly unique to Japan. However, many diversified non-Japanese businesses groups have been described as ''keiretsu'', such as the Virgin Group (UK), Tata Group (India), the Colombian Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño and the Venezuelan Grupo Cisneros. Some industry consortiums and alliances have also been described in this way. The most common examples are the airline code-sharing alliances, such as Oneworld and Star Alliance. While those arrangements link a broad range of companies around a common organization, the groupings tend to have minimal financial entanglement and are generally designed around gaining access to foreign markets within industries that governments consider sensitive such as mining and aviation when foreign ownership is limited or even banned. The automotive and industries have created broad cross-ownership networks across nations, but the national companies are normally independently managed. Banks cited as being central to ''keiretsu''-like systems include Deutsche Bank and some ''keiretsu''-like systems, generally referred to as trusts, were created by investment banks in the United States such as JP Morgan and Mellon Financial/ Mellon family beginning in the late 19th century (roughly the same period they were created in Japan), but they were largely curtailed through anti-trust legislation championed by Theodore Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th century. A form of ''keiretsu'' can also be found in the cross-shareholdings of the large media companies throughout most developed nations. These are largely designed to link content producers to particular distribution channels, and larger content projects, such as expensive movies, are often incorporated with ownership spread across a number of larger companies.


Contrarian view

Harvard Law School professor J. Mark Ramseyer and University of Tokyo professor Yoshiro Miwa have argued that the postwar ''keiretsu'' are a "fable" created by Marxist thinkers in the 1960s so as to argue that monopoly capital dominated the Japanese economy. They point to the sparsity and tenuousness of cross-shareholding relationships within the ''keiretsu'', the inconsistency in members' relationships with the "main banks" of each ''keiretsu'', and the lack of power and reach of the ''zaibatsu'' alumni "lunch clubs" which are often argued to form a core of ''keiretsu'' governance.Miwa & Ramseyer, 2001
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United States–Japan bilateral relationship

By April 2015, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari, representing the two largest economies of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, were involved in bilateral talks regarding agriculture and auto parts, the "two largest obstacles for Japan." These bilateral accords would open each other's markets for products such as rice, pork and automobiles. During the two-day ministerial TPP negotiating session held in Singapore in May 2015, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and veteran negotiator, Wendy Cutler, and Oe Hiroshi, of the Japanese Gaimusho, held bilateral trade talks regarding one of the most contentious trade issues, automobiles. American negotiators wanted the Japanese to open their entire ''keiretsu'' structure, a cornerstone of the Japanese economy, to American automobiles. They wanted Japanese dealer networks such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Mazda to sell American cars. The successful conclusion of these bilateral talks was necessary before the other ten TPP members could complete the trade deal.


See also

* Corporate ecosystem * Economy of Japan * Four big families of Hong Kong * Horizontal integration *
Vertical integration In microeconomics, management and international political economy, vertical integration is a term that describes the arrangement in which the supply chain of a company is integrated and owned by that company. Usually each member of the supp ...
*''
Zaibatsu is a Japanese term referring to industrial and financial vertically integrated business conglomerates in the Empire of Japan, whose influence and size allowed control over significant parts of the Japanese economy from the Meiji period ...
''


References


Further reading

* Masahiko Aoki, ''Information, Incentives and Bargaining in the Japanese Economy'' (1988) * Masahiko Aoki and Hugh Patrick, ''The Japanese Main Bank System'' (1994) * Ronald Gilson and Mark J. Roe, 'Understanding the Japanese Keiretsu' (1993) 102 Yale Law Journal 871 * Yoshiro Miwa and Mark Ramseyer, 'The Fable of the Keiretsu' (2002) 11 J. Econ. & Mgmt. Strategy 169 * Kenichi Miyashita & David Russell, "Keiretsu: inside the hidden Japanese conglomerates" (McGraw-Hill 1995) * Bremner, Brian. (15 March 1999). Fall of a Keiretsu. Business Week, issue 3620, 86–92. Retrieved 27 October 2007, from Academic Search Premier database * 'Whingeing: Japanese-American Trade'. The Economist 18 May 1991 * http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/ramseyer/jemskeiretsu.pdf * https://web.archive.org/web/20120402215916/http://www.econ.kyoto-u.ac.jp/~ida/3Kenkyuu/4ouyoumicro/2006ouyoumicro/060727flath.pdf *http://research.ecstu.com/km/efile/alliances/vertical_heiretsu.pdf {{Business organizations * Japanese business terms Strategic management