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PC sales in Japan seen slowing

Most Japanese PC manufacturers expect domestic sales this year to grow by less than the industry-wide forecast of 22 percent, a bearish outlook.

    Most Japanese PC manufacturers expect domestic sales this year to expand by less than the industry-wide forecast of 22 percent. The bearish outlook reflects sluggish growth in sales to individual consumers for most of 1997, though analysts say corporate demand remains strong, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported Wednesday.

    Ten of 13 major PC makers predicted shipments in fiscal 1997 will grow by 10 to 20 percent in a survey taken by the newspaper earlier this month.

    For 1997, Toshiba and Matsushita Electric expect to meet or surpass the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association's growth estimate of 22 percent. Toshiba expects to grow by 25 percent, and Matsushita anticipates reaching 22 percent.

    NEC Computer is one of three projecting growth in the range of 15 to 20 percent; Mitsubishi Electric is one of six expecting increases in the 10-to-15-percent range; and Sanyo anticipates an uptick of less than 10 percent.

    Fujitsu did not respond to the survey.

    In fiscal 1996, domestic shipments of PCs rose by 26 percent to 7,192,000, according to the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association.

    Overall, Japan's increase is still likely to exceed that of the Asia/Pacific region excluding the Land of the Rising Sun. Spurred by sales in China, the Asia/Pacific region is growing at a annual rate of 15 percent, according to a study released last month by Dataquest.

    But the Japanese computer market has been influenced by a consumption tax hike that went into effect in April, and also the Japanese economy's astonishing contraction of 11 percent in the year's second quarter, compared to a year ago.

    Intel, the world's leading chipmaker, further believes that PC prices in Japan are too high. The U.S.-based firm cut its prices by as much as 50 percent in July, in an effort to spur a reduction in PC prices. Intel has reported that microprocessor shipments to Japan in the second quarter increased by 10 percent from the previous year's level, but expects shipments in the July-to-September quarter to fall.