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Alliances Spreading Among Lithium Battery Materials Firms

TOKYO (Nikkei)–Lithium ion battery alliances are on the rise, with materials firms joining forces to survive an increasingly competitive market.

Ube Industries Ltd. (4208) and Hitachi Maxell Ltd. said Friday that they will set up a joint venture next month to produce separators — a component essential to ensuring safety when batteries overheat. The tie-up is intended to speed up product development in a bid to establish a leading market position.

The venture will be capitalized at 150 million yen, with Ube taking a 51% stake and the Hitachi Ltd. (6501) unit holding the rest.

Ube already has a market share of about 10% in separators. Tapping Hitachi Maxell’s proprietary coating technology, the joint venture will develop safer materials.

The new firm is expected to begin mass production around 2013, with a goal of 10 billion yen in sales by between 2015 and 2020.

Down the supply chain, battery manufactures are seeking partners. Panasonic Corp. (6752) made Sanyo Electric Co. (6764) a wholly owned subsidiary to strengthen its battery operations. South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. has established a joint venture with Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH to produce automotive batteries. And Hitachi is in partnership with U.S. autoparts maker Johnson Controls Inc.
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