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Japan-Update

Hitachi takes aim at Chinese health care sector, CEO says

Japanese conglomerate's UK nuclear project on target for mid-2020s

Hitachi President and CEO Toshiaki Higashihara

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Hitachi sees strong growth potential in the Chinese services sector, particularly involving health care, the Japanese conglomerate's chief executive said Wednesday.

The bulk of Hitachi's Chinese business comes from selling construction machinery and ATMs. But with challenges such as an aging population becoming a greater concern in the massive Asian market, Hitachi has begun "receiving queries about using digital technologies to make hospital administration more efficient," President and CEO Toshiaki Higashihara told The Nikkei during the World Economic Forum here.

Hitachi also will work to support exports of Chinese goods and services, targeting sales of 1.1 trillion yen ($10 billion) in China for the year ending in March 2019 -- a roughly 20% increase over last fiscal year.

When asked about a Hitachi project to build a nuclear power plant in the U.K., Higashihara said the company will go ahead with it according to plan. The company wants to line up investors in fiscal 2019 and start operating the plant in the mid-2020s. Hitachi seeks financial and other forms of support from the U.K. government, Higashihara said.

Higashihara also urged London to pursue a free trade pact with Japan once the U.K. leaves the European Union.

Government and business leaders are gathered here through Friday to discuss issues in the world economy, including the rising tide of protectionism. Hitachi regards the global flow of information -- such as on where best to procure parts -- as a business necessity. Yet Beijing is tightening restrictions in areas such as the ability of foreign companies to move commercial data outside China's borders.

Of all that protectionism involves, "the most frightening thing is an information shutdown," Higashihara said. "If information from outside is cut off, it would be a blow to business."

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