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Kobe Steel's Data-Fabrication Stuns Japanese Manufacturers

12 October 2017, 11:01 | Melvin Schneider

Image Zoom |By Yuka Obayashi

Image Zoom             
                                                            |By Yuka Obayashi

Kobe Steel has not released the names of the manufacturers that received the affected goods, nor whether any of its own products might have incorporated them. GENERAL MOTORS In the U.S., General Motors said it is checking whether its cars contain falsely certified parts or components sourced from Kobe Steel, the latest major automaker to be dragged into the widening scandal.

Hitachi said its new trains in Britain used Kobe Steel but had all passed rigorous tests, while USA plane manufacturer Boeing said it had not found any safety issues. Kobe Steel, Japan's third largest steel producer, admitted that data on road to aluminum and copper products suited to customer specifications was fabricated.

The stock dived 22% on Tuesday to finish at 1,068 yen ($9.50), its maximum daily loss limit-wiping nearly a billion dollars off the firm's market value.

The company said in a statement late on Wednesday that it had uncovered manipulation of data on steel powder used in metallurgy and also on high-tech materials used to create films used in computer chips.

Concern has spread across a range of industries - including auto, train and aircraft manufacturers - that source materials from Kobe Steel. "We won't know if we need to take any action until those investigations are complete", a spokesperson said.

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The country's trade ministry also wants Kobe Steel to provide reasons for the data fabrication and prevention measures within a month, Mr Kawasaki told reporters after meeting with the ministry. "Kobe Steel's technology is not something easily substitutable by others, and existing customers have nowhere else to go", said Yasuo Sakuma, Chief Investment Officer at Libra Investments in Tokyo. Its customers include Toyota Motor, General Motors and Ford, as well as aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The company has said it was examining possible data falsification going back 10 years - a familiar echo of a string of other cheating scandals involving Japan inc. Previous cases in Japan involving falsified data included Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and Takata, which filed for bankruptcy this year over faulty airbags that were blamed for 17 deaths and scores of injuries.

Kobe Steel's admission has reverberated through supply chains and cast a shadow over Japan's reputation for precision manufacturing. Kobe Steel said it had failed to carry out tests it had agreed to conduct, and improperly "rewrote" inspection data.

The Japanese business World newspaper Nikkei announced that a subsidiary of Kobe Steel has been identified as a data fraud.

The steelmaker reported losses in the last two financial years, but has said it expects to return to profit this year.

Shares in Kobe Steel fell by more than a fifth this week after it admitted fabricating data about the strength and durability of some aluminium and copper products delivered to more than 200 companies.



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