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Ntt: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do


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NTT: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Nippon Telegraph & Telephone executives keep beating back the powerful political forces seeking to break up the company. Recently, the champion of keeping Japan's telecom giant intact, NTT President Masashi Kojima, withstood the opposition of government bureaucrats and won a guarantee to keep his job for at least another two years. Kojima's success is remarkable because the government owns 60% of NTT.

Kojima, 62, argues that only NTT can take on huge projects such as laying fiber-optic networks. And he has bolstered his position by partnerships with U.S. allies, including Microsoft. The critical factor in Kojima's latest victory: Japan's ruling coalition froze local phone rates to boost its popularity. The Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications had planned to offer NTT a rate hike if it dumped Kojima, but the freeze undercut the agency.

Having won the battle, Kojima may lose the war. The bureaucrats will keep trying to break NTT into smaller units, feeling that the giant moves too slowly. A government review panel is to meet next year on that. Meanwhile, the rate freeze will stunt NTT's earnings.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER By Neil Gross


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