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Cover Story
SADACHIKA WATANABE
Staff writer
JAKARTA – In populous Southeast Asian
countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines,
local conglomerates led by ethnic Chinese are
going on the offensive in their investing activity.
In Indonesia, Salim Group has re-entered the
automobile market to tap robust domestic demand,
while Lippo Group is stepping up the construction
of shopping malls. In these attempts to expand
business, they often team up with Japanese and
other foreign companies boasting technology
and service, playing a role in ushering in foreign
investments.
Salim has agreed with parties concerned to reacquire up to about 70% of shares in Indomobil
Sukses International for $809.3 million. The
group once sold a controlling stake in the major
car company of Indonesia at the time of the Asian
currency crisis in the 1990s.
Brisk auto sales
Indomobil makes and sells automobiles in
partnerships with Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and
Nissan Motor Co. In Indonesia, new car sales hit a
record high last year for the third consecutive year,
With the expanded middle-income class behind the
brisk auto sales, Salim apparently judged it was a
good time to re-launch the car business.
Another Indonesian company, PT Lippo
Karawaci Tbk, a real estate arm of the Lippo Group,
plans to boost the number of shopping malls it
operates to 50 by 2016 from the current 28. For this
($103 million) to build three shopping malls.
In the Philippines, SM Group, the country's
biggest retailer headed by Chinese Filipino tycoon
shopping malls in the country last year. Meanwhile,
Charoen Pokphand Group of Thailand plans to
enhance its mainstay food processing business by
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and other neighboring
nations.
Crowds of shoppers check out goods on sale in a shop in Jakarta. Chinese
conglomerates have set their sights on middle-income earners.
Next generation
Southeast Asian conglomerates are typically owned
and run by ethnic Chinese business people or
families. In recent years, the leaderships of such
conglomerates have been transferred from the
countries from China before World War II and
started business to the next generation who have
Southeast Asian countries' citizenships and often
studied management at Western graduate schools.
Chinese conglomerates in Southeast Asia have
been valued as business leaders by governments
in power at the time since 1960s-1970s, with the
groups enjoying near monopolies over business
areas they are adept at. For foreign companies
foraying into the region, the conglomerates are
"attractive partners which have ample funds, land
assets and extensive logistic networks," said an
executive at a Japanese trading company.
On the part of Chinese conglomerates, they
are willing to introduce trends and new services
from overseas. As the conglomerates' interests
coincide with those of foreign companies intending
to accelerate their penetration of Southeast Asian
markets, the two groups are increasingly joining
hands.
In Indonesia, Temasek Holdings, an investment
company owned by the Singaporean government,
with Lippo. Aeon Co., Japan's leading retailer,
Mas Group, is on track to operate a large-scale
shopping center in Indonesia.
In the Philippines, Fast Retailing Co. of Japan
Cover Story
runs Uniqlo casual clothes stores through a joint
venture with SM Group. In Thailand, Shanghai
Automotive Industry Corp. of China has created
a joint venture with CP Group, planning in 2014
to start producing and marketing passenger cars
under Shanghai Automotive's MG brand.
Salim Group, which decided to re-enter the car
businesses on top of automobiles at the time. But
has grown into one of the world's biggest makers
production capacity reaching 15 billion packages
showed that four of the top 10 countries of the world
December quarter last year were Southeast Asian
nations, with the Philippines coming in second,
the highest among the four. This underscores the
vigorous consumer spending in the region even by
global standards.
Financial reserves
One reason for the aggressive investments by
Chinese conglomerates in Southeast Asia is that
expansion of domestic demand after having been
forced to scale down operations in the aftermath of
the Asian currency crisis in the late 1990s.
group has found itself able to move into the auto
business again.
Another factor behind the Chinese
conglomerates' investment spree in Southeast Asia
is a growing uncertainty over the outlook of their
operations in mainland China, which they have
been focusing on since the 2000s. Ciputra Group
in Indonesia had unveiled in May last year a plan
to invest more than $60 million in a real estate
development project, including the construction
of houses and commercial facilities, in the Chinese
city of Shenyang. Recently, however, the group said
it would postpone the sale of lots.
In the meantime, Chinese conglomerates
are stepping up domestic investments to build
shopping malls and hotels in a bid to diversify
their investment risks. Their return to investment
activity in Southeast Asia, helped by the booming
stock markets which have made their fund raising
easier, is becoming evident.
Cover Story
High-rise hospitals like this one operated by Lippo are appearing in Jakarta.
Lippo, other Indonesian firms stepping up hospital
business
SADACHIKA WATANABE
Staff writer
JAKARTA – Chinese-run Indonesian conglomerates
are accelerating their hospital operations. The
Lippo Group will double the number of facilities
it has to 27 by 2015. The Ciputra Group aims to
have 15 facilities in operation by the same year.
Both companies are adding commercial facilities
thanks to strong consumer spending and corporate
investment, but they are also focusing on the
growing long-term demand for hospitals that serve
the middle and upper classes with their eyes set on
cultivating new revenue streams.
PT Lippo Karawaci Tbk, Lippo Group's giant
real estate unit, currently operates 13 hospitals,
including locations in Jakarta, the capital ciy, and
Surabaya. "This year, they will generate 40% of the
entire company's pretax profit," according to one
company executive.
trillion rupiah ($164.8 million) to break ground on
seven new facilities. It will also expand hospitals in
core regional cities such as Medan on the island of
Sumatra and Semarang in Central Java, with the
aim of operating 27 hospitals by 2015.
Lippo's hospitals are quite large with 100-300
beds. Staffed with medical specialists and equipped
with cutting-edge diagnostic imaging equipment
and medical devices, they provide medical services
PT Ciputra Development Tbk has also
announced plans to build 15 new hospitals by
around 2015. Each is expected to cost more than
200 billion rupiah. The company first entered the
hospital business in 2011 and currently operates
one location.
Both companies' main business is urban
development and office building management.
Lippo plans to increase the number of shopping
malls it operates from 28 at present to 50 by 2016.
Ciputra will expand Ciputra World, a large complex
Cover Story
in Jakarta, and will also develop residential districts
in various areas.
In the future, the two companies are eyeing the
in tandem with their existing urban development
and real estate operations.
Besides the middle class, which is gaining the
economic power to afford medical treatment at
hospitals, the number of affluent people in the
country is growing, so demand for hospitals, the
upgrading of which has lagged, is almost certain to
increase.
As of the end of September 2012, there were
a total of around 2,000 hospitals in Indonesia of
which 1,500 were government-operated and 500
privately-owned. However, few hospitals have
advanced medical facilities. When suffering from
serious conditions, many of the wealthy choose to
receive treatments or be hospitalized at facilities in
neighboring Singapore or Malaysia.
of patients to foreign countries by upgrading
hospitals at home, and in the long term aim to lure
"medical tourists" from abroad to Indonesia.
Companies in Indonesia are becoming
increasingly interested in medical services, as
evidenced by the expansion of clinics operated by
major pharmaceutical concerns such as PT Kalbe
Farma Tbk and PT Kimia Farma Tbk.
To manufacturers in Japan and other
industrialized nations, progress in building large
hospitals in developing countries such as Indonesia
signals the expansion of the export market for
medical equipment in those countries.
Among cancer diagnostic and treatment
equipment, PET (positron emission tomography)
scanners that detect tumors using radioactive drugs
can cost hundreds of millions of yen for the imaging
device alone. It is also necessary to have drug
manufacturing equipment and facilities installed
with special walls to block the radiation, so such
equipment presents an enormous investment for a
hospital. Expertise in running the equipment must
also be transferred.
With the expansion of the middle class, such
demand is growing rapidly. European and American
medical-equipment manufacturers comprise a large
share of the market in industrialized countries, but
Japanese manufacturers are going on the offensive
in developing countries.
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry held a medical seminar in Jakarta on Feb.
23 and Japanese manufacturers such as Hitachi
Ltd. promoted their goods and services there. Ship
Healthcare Holdings Co., a hospital construction
to do public relations work on operating-room
construction and is putting effort into promotion in
the country.
Cover Story
Kerry Group Chairman Robert Kuok appears at a groundbreaking
ceremony for Shangri-La Asia Ltd.'s new hotel in Guangzhou, China,
Malaysian billionaire Kuok
lays out succession plan
CK TAN
Staff writer
KUALA LUMPUR – Last month, Singapore-listed
Wilmar International Ltd. announced that it was
expanding its palm plantation business by taking
a majority stake in plantation company Noble
Resources Pte, which owns 230 sq. km of land in
West Papua, Indonesia.
Although, it is already one of the biggest palm
plantation companies in the world with a total
planted area of 2,556 sq. km, Wilmar is still
expanding its land bank.
Wilmar is one of the companies controlled by
89-year-old Robert Kuok, a Malaysian of Chinese
ethnicity. Forbes Asia magazine ranked him the
richest Malaysian in 2013 with a fortune of $12.5
billion.
The publicity-shy Kuok still pulls the strings
behind the scenes, overseeing his family-run
business in plantations, commodities trading,
hotels, real estate, logistics and publishing. After
more than 63 years helming the business, people
are wondering how he wants to pass the baton to
the next generation.
In a rare press interview with Bloomberg early
this year, he said, "Everything on Earth is dynamic.
I can only give my children a message, not money.
If they follow it, we can go another three or four
generations."
In reality, his children and relatives are already
occupying key positions in his stable of companies.
His eldest son, Kuok Khoon Chen, is chairman
of Kerry Properties Ltd., a Hong Kong listed real
estate company. Another son, Kuok Khoon Ean, is
the CEO of Shangri-la Asia Ltd., also a Hong Konglisted company managing the Shangri-la brand
of luxury hotels. Kuok Hui Kwong, the tycoon's
daughter, is the Executive Director of SCMP Group
Ltd., the publisher of South China Morning Post,
Hong Kong's leading English daily. Kuok Khoon
Hong, who runs Wilmar, is his nephew.
Kuok was born in 1923 in Johor Baru, a town in
southern Malaysia bordering Singapore, to Chinese
immigrant parents who ran a small grocery store.
Although he spoke his parents' Fuzhou dialect and
Mandarin, he was sent to a local English primary
school, a natural choice for parents who wanted the
best education for their children during the British
colonial era. He later attended the prestigious
interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. An
18-year-old school dropout by then, Kuok found
work at Mitsubishi Corp.'s Johor branch where he
was exposed to commodities trading.
When his father passed away, Kuok and his
brothers inherited the business and took it to new
heights by registering it under Kuok Brothers Ltd.
to trade commodities. The turning point came when
the company obtained a trading license for sugar,
a price-controlled item in Malaysia, building up a
near-monopoly. The company produced more than
10% of the world's sugar at one time, earning Kuok
the nickname "Sugar King."
Cover Story
The Shangri-la Hotel in Kuala Lumpur is one of 108 hotels worldwide
owned by Robert Kuok.
Overseas Chinese, especially those from his
generation are very family-oriented, frugal, downto-earth and they still feel attached to China. They
are successful through sheer hard work in their
adopted country. Kuok is no different but he is
perhaps one of the few outsiders who took a bold
move to invest in the early days of China's market
economy in the 1980s.
Much of his success is also due to his instinct
to venture into untapped area and connection
to decision makers of the countries that he has
business interest. In an interview with China’s
CCTV two years ago, he said he foresaw the
potential of the Chinese tourism industry when he
although tourist facilities, especially public toilets,
were still in poor condition.
"I had a feeling that China would have the most
prosperous travel industry, as it has historical relics
and sites," Kuok reasoned.
When China faced sugar shortages in 1973 at
the height of the Cultural Revolution, he readily
agreed to the request of Mao Zedong's government
to fill the gap. And when he heard that Japanese
and Western investors were about to acquire prime
land in Beijing's business district in the early 1980s,
he again stepped in to partner with the Chinese
government to build what is now the capital's China
World Trade Center.
In Malaysia, Kuok enjoyed good relations with
the first Prime Minister Abdul Rahman, whose
administration gave his company licenses to trade
action policy, introduced in 1971 to help ethnic
Malays land business and government jobs, is seen
as hampering Chinese businesses like Kuok's ability
to grow in a big way.
Today, Kuok Brothers and Kerry Holdings Ltd.,
Hong Kong, are the privately held holding arms of
his business empire. Kuok has made Hong Kong
his headquarters since 1974 and from there he built
up his presence in China at a time when foreign
investors were still scarce.
Currently, Wilmar has 50% market share of
edible oils and a substantial share of the rice and
flour market in China. There are now 108 hotels
under the Shangri-la group worldwide and half of
them are in various locations in China. Last year,
Kerry Properties made a turnover of $4.38 billion,
76% of it from China and Hong Kong.
Last December, Kuok received the CCTV
Economic Person of the Year's lifetime achievement
in China's economic development.
walked in small steps onto the stage to receive the
award and modestly told the audience, "Be focused
on what you do, and when you succeed don't be
complacent, because success can also be the cause
of failure."
Cover Story
Pan Qinglin speaks at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on March 7 in Beijing.
Overseas Chinese deplore impact of territorial
dispute
GAKU SHIMADA
Staff writer
BEIJING – A Chinese businessman based in Beijing
caught other members of the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference off guard during
internal deliberations when he said that the group
of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea at the
center of an increasingly bitter territorial dispute
with Japan belonged to both countries. Speaking
to the advisory body for the People's Republic of
China, Pan Qinglin said, "I always say this in Japan.
Both of us (Chinese and Japanese) possess Diaoyu,"
the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands.
The more than 50 people in the conference room
immediately looked at the speaker. Some appeared
visibly angry because he did not say unequivocally
that the disputed islands belong to China, but
others appeared to fear for him, wondering if he
could get away with such a remark.
This reporter was allowed to sit in on meetings
at the ongoing National People's Congress and the
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference,
which closed on March 12, at a time when the SinoJapanese relationship remained tense over the
disputed islands.
Pan, who came to Japan to study in 1985, is
married to a Japanese woman. He claims halfjokingly that these islands belong to "us," whether
they are owned by China or Japan, because his
relationship with his wife is rock solid. But his
remarks were also prompted by much more serious
considerations.
"China and Japan are the only countries in the
world where Chinese characters are still used, so
broadly speaking, the two countries share the same
over the small islands?" he said. He added that
both Japan and China must work together now to
ease the tensions.
Cover Story
He also criticized China's Foreign Ministry,
saying, "It is not just relations with Japan that have
deteriorated, but with neighboring countries such
as Mongolia and Vietnam as well. Whose fault is
it?" A silence fell over the conference room.
These internal deliberations were attended by a
group of overseas returnees charged with advising
and other issues. Minutes of their discussions are
kept, and their recommendations are presented to
the Chinese Communist Party's leadership. Many of
them are in business, so Chinese foreign policy has
an immense impact on their livelihoods. Pan, for
example, played a key role in an extensive network
of overseas Chinese that encouraged European
aircraft maker Airbus SAS to site its first Asian
factory in Tianjin, his hometown.
"The Chinese Foreign Ministry runs the nation's
foreign policy using government and taxpayers'
money, but ministry officials do not suffer any
direct consequences to their livelihoods even if they
make serious mistakes,” Pan went on. “In contrast,
overseas Chinese are working hard to raise China's
profile abroad, spending our own hard-earned
money. This is a huge difference," he said. A
significant number of people in the room nodded
in agreement with his assertion that from an
economic standpoint, China must quickly improve
its relationship with Japan.
According to 2012 trade data compiled by
Beijing, Japan was China's third-largest source of
is true that China's dependence on trade with Japan
has been decreasing, but Chinese manufacturers
still depend heavily on Japanese imports to obtain
many key components they need to produce export
items.
A case in point is the iPhone 5, manufactured
in China under contract for Apple Inc. Many of its
key parts, including its LCD screen, are Japanesemade, and Chinese contract manufacturers cannot
produce the smartphone for export without these
parts. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2010
that only 3% of the iPhone’s value stemmed from
the assembly work done in China, while Japanese
17% respectively.
Economic ties with Japan remain one of the
lifelines for the Chinese economy. Many Chinese
economists agree that it makes no economic
sense to argue that China no longer needs Japan,
although this argument that has gained currency
among ordinary Chinese since tensions flared up
between the two countries over the uninhabited
islands in the East China Sea last year.
Overseas Chinese have been raising their
presence in the Chinese corridors of power since
Xi Jinping became the CCP's General Secretary
last November. He served for nearly 20 years as
to which many overseas Chinese can trace their
origins. One reason he has been able to become
China's top leader is a power base built with
financial resources provided by overseas Chinese
networks. It would be wrong to discount the
Chinese on China's new leadership, led by Xi,
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February
sent a New Year's message to Chinese nationals
residing in Japan as they celebrated the Lunar
New Year. "The Sino-Japanese relationship is one
of the most important bilateral ties for Japan. I
will do my best not to let specific disagreements
disrupt the entire relationship," he said in part. The
content of this message was quickly conveyed to
Xi and other top Chinese leaders, who interpreted
it as a signal from Abe that he wished to mend the
strained bilateral ties.
Neither Tokyo nor Beijing can afford to be
seen compromising politically over the territorial
dispute, given inflamed public opinion in both
countries. Each understands the political situation
faced by the other at home. How will the Japanese
and Chinese leaders work together to soften the
adverse effects the prolonged confrontation is
having on bilateral economic ties, and find a way
to repair the strained relationship? Their political
skills are being sorely tested.
Asia Business Map
Asia Business Map
Markets & Finance
Market whispers: Cyprus crisis a warning for Japan
One day, the government suddenly announces
a tax on bank deposits. Citizens rush to banks
in front of ATMs and operations at all branches
suspended until the following week. If the banks
go bust, depositors could lose 30-40% of their
deposits, or they might get their deposits back when
banks resume operations but in some new currency
rather than euros.
Individual depositors in Cyprus are living this
nightmarish experience. Japan cannot dismiss
the situation as someone else's troubles, however.
known as Abenomics, could push down real interest
rates and erode the value of bank deposits, which
would have the same effect as a deposit tax.
Because Cyprus is part of the eurozone, it does
currency. But Japan is groping for a way out of a
recession made more persistent by the strong yen.
The government has public support for its policy
to lower the value of the yen – under the banner
currency undermines the value of yen deposits
against other currencies. Especially now that
the yen's purchasing power will strike directly at
people’s standard of living.
The recent fall in the value of the yen to 95 to
the dollar has been welcomed because it helps
Japanese products regain competitiveness in
international markets. As the yen approaches 100
to the dollar, however, the Japanese will begin to
feel the negative effects of the weaker currency.
The abrupt imposition of a deposit tax is an
discipline is not maintained in a country with
outstanding government bonds to the tune of
¥1,000 trillion, the government’s last resort would
be the more than ¥1,500 trillion socked away as
In its hour of crisis, Cyprus is counting on
Russia, a country with whom the Mediterranean
island nation has had traditionally strong economic
relations. The country with which Japan has had
the closest economic ties is the U.S., but its public
debt has already swelled to the legal limit. Although
the U.S. responded to the 2011 earthquake and
tsunami with Operation Tomodachi (friend), it can
Protesters march through central Nicosia during a demonstration March 24. (Reuters)
Markets & Finance
It would be problematic from the perspective
of national security to ask China to buy more
Japanese government bonds, so the International
Monetary Fund is likely to be the only possible
rescuer for Japan. The Cyprus crisis reminds us of
government – two of the three arrows of Abenomics
– in the quest to save Japan’s economy.
More than mere economics
Banks in Cyprus are hoping that Russia will bail it
out, but President Vladimir Putin is upset that the
country did not consult his government in advance.
The EU is in a delicate position, since its proposed
tax on deposits would have hit many Russian
individuals and businesses.
Geopolitically, the pressure is on Europe: the
region relies on Russia for 36% of its natural gas,
and it will be a long time before it can diversify
energy supplies by importing shale gas from the
U.S. Unless the European Union makes concessions
to Cyprus, allowing for a more politically palatable
bailout deal, Cyprus could move away from the EU
Among EU nations, Germany in particular has
been critical of Cyprus. The island nation sought to
corporate tax to 10%, but Germany called this "tax
dumping." France has also expressed concern over
the intervention of Russia in the Cyprus bailout.
This tug of war reveals the underlying dynamic that
has Cyprus stuck in the middle.
People in Nicosia queue to withdraw their deposits from a Cypriot bank.
The government of Cyprus decided to delay reopening the banks.
Cypriot banks have managed to survive so
far, thanks to life support in the form of liquidity
supplied by the European Central Bank (ECB) to
banks within the EU. If the government does not
accept the EU deal, however, even ECB President
Mario Draghi, who has said that the bank was
"ready to do whatever it takes" to preserve the
to Cyprus.
The country has been told by other European
nations that it must make up the shortfall on
the same time, Cyprus cannot accept Russia's
conditions wholesale and risk falling into bondage
to Russia. In the meantime, the people of Cyprus
have rejected the EU’s conditions for saving their
country, and the Cypriot president is buying time
by extending the lockdown on banks.
Once the banks resume operations, major
Russian depositors are expected to scramble to
withdraw their money and transfer it elsewhere.
Local citizens are already increasingly distrustful
of their government, which they feel has prioritized
international clients over domestic depositors.
Local newspaper headlines have described this as
"Russian roulette." If the president accidentally
pulls the trigger, it could ruin the country.
As talks came down to the wire, the Orthodox
Church in Cyprus, the largest landowner in the
country, felt moved to act and offered to mortgage
announced that he would remain in Moscow until a
preliminary accord is reached with Russia.
While IMF statistics show that Cyprus's
direct investment in Russia amounted to $128.8
billion in 2011, one private sector estimate puts
Russian lending to Cyprus at about $120 billion.
Furthermore, some 7% of Russia's private sector
loans are made via Cyprus.
There is little doubt that Cyprus serves as an
offshore banking center for Russia. In New York,
many analysts are sounding the alarm over this
Russian connection – although the size of the
Cypriot economy is small, the fallout from this
crisis could be much more extensive. Squeezed
between the EU and Russia, and buffeted by their
brinkmanship, the Cyprus problem is deeper than
Markets & Finance
Itsuo Toshima is the representative of his own
Japan representative of the World Gold Council
until September 2011.
Born in Tokyo in 1948, Toshima received
a degree in international economics from
Hitotsubashi University. After joining Mitsubishi
Bank, one of the predecessors of Bank of
Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, he was assigned to the
becoming a foreign exchange and precious metals
dealer.
A gold expert with extensive market experience
in Zurich and New York, Toshima writes about
and macroeconomics for lay people from an
independent stance.
He is the author of several books published
by Nikkei Publishing Inc. and Nikkei Business
Publications Inc.
Science & Technology
Innovate Suzaka developed the Graper specifically to make grape-picking easier. Cyberdyne has teamed up with Daiwa House
Industry to produce a robotic suit for nursing care, called HAL.
Bionic helpers suiting up to lend a hand
A number of Japanese companies are developing
wearable robots and other gear designed to assist
people's movements. Such devices may come to play
an increasingly important role in a rapidly graying
Japan, especially in such physically demanding
In January, farming equipment maker Kubota
Corp. showcased its new "assist-robot ARM-1" at
a product fair for dealers in Kyoto. The wearable
equipment, which the Osaka-based company plans
to launch in October, provides support to the
arms to make it easier for farmers to perform such
actions as picking fruit. The backpacklike robot is
equipped with sensors that detect which way the
user wants to move his or her arms and adjust the
robot's position accordingly.
Activelink Co., a subsidiary of Panasonic Corp.
that specializes in robots, worked with Kubota
in developing the ARM-1. The company says the
device is designed to reduce the physical burden
on farmers who have to hold their arms up for long
periods.
Kubota will sell the robot for ¥126,000 ($1,326)
announced on March 4 that it has formed a capital
tie-up with trading giant Mitsui & Co. in the bionicsuit business.
Kubota's assist-robot ARM-1, which will go on sale in October, is
designed to support the arms during activities that require reaching up.
Science & Technology
Easier pickings
Innovate Suzaka, a consortium of small and midsize
businesses based in Suzaka, Nagano Prefecture, has
developed a power-assist suit called the Graper. The
device, which is size-adjustable and worn on the
upper body, is designed to help alleviate neck pain,
a common ailment among grape pickers.
The device is manufactured by Misuya Industry
Co., which is based in Suzaka, a city known for
grape production.
"Local farmers told us they often have stiff necks,
so we developed the device last year by working
with the community as a whole," said a Misuya
with another Graper product released in 2009 that
is designed to support the arms.
The annual sales target for the Graper is about
100 units. The neck version is priced at ¥15,000,
and a set that includes both types is about ¥40,000.
Back helper
manufacturer, last October began selling a back
supporter called the Rakunie. The product is
designed to help nursing care staff lift bedridden
people, and the company says it reduces the load on
the back muscles by 14%.
Morita has long developed technology to ease
carry water hoses and other heavy equipment. The
with Keio University Prof. Nobutoshi Yamazaki and
medical equipment maker Daiya Industry Co.
The Rakunie extends from the shoulders to the
knees and wraps around the waist. Because it is
made of an elastic material, it allows the wearer to
move freely and is easy to put on and take off. It
is also designed not to put too much pressure on
blood vessels and nerves.
The device is priced at ¥24,150, and the company
have received inquiries from overseas," a Morita
Teaming up
Universities are also getting in on the robotic-suit
action. A research team led by Shigeki Toyama, a
professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture
and Technology, has developed a motor-embedded
assist suit designed to ease the physical demands of
farmwork.
Cyberdyne Inc., a venture set up by the
University of Tsukuba, has teamed up with Daiwa
House Industry Co. to produce a robotic suit for
nursing care. A number of care facilities already use
the wearable device, called HAL (Hybrid Assistive
Limb).
Asia in Pictures
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