Fuji increasing U.S. operations

ELMSFORD, N.Y. — Fuji Photo Film of Japan said Thursday it plans to start making film in the United States for the first time, a move likely to step up pressure on arch rival Kodak.

Fuji said it will spend $200 million at its plant in Greenwood, S.C., which will produce up to 100 million rolls of film a year. The move will add about 100 jobs to the Greenwood plant, which employs more than 1,000 people.

While Fuji has been manufacturing at Greenwood since 1988, it has made printing plates, photographic paper, single-use cameras and other products at the plant, but not film.

A Kodak spokesman said the move was not unexpected, given Fuji’s large plant in Greenwood, and would make Fuji more competitive with U.S. companies.

“Fuji’s been a very good competitor for a long time,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for them.”

He declined to comment on whether the move would insulate the Japanese company from any possible sanctions that might result from Kodak’s trade case against Fuji.

Fuji and Eastman Kodak Co. are battling a case before the World Trade Organization, wherein Kodak and Washington officials claim that trade barriers keep Kodak film out of the Japanese market.

Kodak, the world’s largest producer of photographic film, filed its case with Washington in May 1995 and last year Washington took the complaint to the WTO, the world trade body.

Fuji’s move into U.S. film manufacturing could help consumers, who can expect to see U.S.-made Fuji 35mm color film on store shelves by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal, which reported Fuji’s plans in its Thursday edition, quoted some retailers as saying they expect the move to result in price wars for film.

Fuji also said it plans to boost production of color photographic paper at Greenwood by about 50%.

Fuji Photo Film Inc. is wholly owned by Japan’s Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd.

Stock of Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak fell 62.5¢ to $80.875 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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