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The Trojan horses: Japanese and U.S. presence in Europe.

Currently, it is almost impossible to open a newspaper without encountering an item referring to the European Community (EC). This is hardly surprising. 1992 and the European Monetary Union gives the twelve countries(1) constituting the EC immense financial and economic power from which Japanese and American manufacturers should consider denial of access perilous.

Japanese and U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in the EC is the subject of this research. More specifically, we studied a number of European subsidiaries controlled by the largest Japanese and U.S. industrial corporations. The Japanese companies were selected from Fortune's 1990 list of the 150 largest Asian companies in 1989. The U.S. companies were drawn from Fortune's 1990 list of the 500 largest U.S. companies. We then achieved two ends: we assessed the actual position of the largest Japanese and American companies in the EC, and we compared the approaches used by these firms to enter the EC.

The rest of this paper is organized into four sections. Section one presents a brief overview of the theory of FDI and discusses Japanese and U.S. FDI strategy. Section two discusses the samples and the methodology used. Section three presents the results obtained. Section four summarizes our findings.

Japanese and American Foreign Strategy

It was approximately twenty years ago that Hymer (1970) wrote his seminal article on FDI and multinational enterprises (MNEs). Since then, the literature has expanded substantially.

One important explanation for the presence of FDI and MNEs is based on the theory of industrial organization. According to Caves (1971), MNEs are oligopolists having intangible capital in the form of trademarks, patents, special skills, and/or other organizational abilities. When this intangible capital is inseparable from the firm, corporations may attempt to acquire control directly via the establishment of foreign affiliates. The firm advantages must also be monopolistically held. According to Giddy (1987), without this type of market imperfection FDI would not occur, as national firms would perform better by staying in their home market. Consequently, the presence of FDI and MNEs is the result of the existence of market imperfections.

These market imperfections can be related to product and factor markets or to financial markets. They also include government regulations and control (tariffs and capital control) that impose barriers to free trade. Yet market failure, i.e. market imperfection, is not sufficient in justifying FDI. Local firms have inherent cost advantages over foreign firms, so accordingly, MNEs can survive abroad only if their advantages cannot be purchased or duplicated by local competitors.

Multinational enterprises have different strategies to protect themselves from competitive threats: some rely on product innovation, others on product differentiation. Still others use cartels and collusion to protect themselves. Japanese and U.S. companies' foreign strategy has traditionally been quite different, perhaps as different as the two countries. However, these differences have tended to diminish since the 1970s.

Since the mid-1930s, U.S. foreign economic policy has generally been to perpetuate freedom of FDI. After World War II, U.S. companies were strongly encouraged to aid in European reconstruction. This encouragement continued throughout the 1950s as a method of reducing the "dollar shortage" of foreign countries. Accordingly, the U.S. accounted for much of the explosion of FDI in the world. The growth rate of U.S. FDI worldwide averaged slightly less than 10 percent annually during the 20-year period of 1960 to 1981. According to Weekly and Aggarwal (1987), this rate of increase was greater than the average annual growth of investment in the U.S. economy by American firms for the same time period. Further, since 1950, FDI has become the primary form of international business activity for many U.S. companies.

However, in the early 1960s such investment was accused of contributing to the "dollar glut" in Europe, and a 1962 tax code revision eliminated the use of tax havens abroad. Consequently, U.S. companies were discouraged from FDI in industrial countries and simultaneously encouraged toward FDI in the developing world.

Today, the unification of the EC has caused the U.S. to take a second look at FDI in industrialized countries. In contrast to the long history and large scale of American FDI, Japanese FDI is still at an early stage of expansion. Up to the 1960s, Japanese companies did not possess the organizational strength to compete internationally. The virtual absence of Japanese activity on the international scene was also attributable to some economically and politically oriented rules.

Until 1979, two laws governed Japanese foreign exchange transactions: the "Foreign Exchange and Foreign Control Law" and the "Foreign Capital Law." During the 1950s and the 1960s, Japan started to feel pressure from trading partners to liberalize its control over international trade and capital transactions. The pressure intensified in the mid-1960s when Japan became the second largest economy in terms of GNP in the non-communist world.

Since 1971-72, Japanese firms' decisions to invest overseas have not been excessively constrained by their government. However, not until the mid-1970s did Japanese FDI become focused on the EC; previously it was targeted toward Asia, the U.S., and some developing nations. Japanese FDI at that time was considered to be the means of acquiring raw materials to sustain industrial growth. At present, an investment decision depends largely on each company's overall business strategy and internal constraints. Japanese business people are currently confronted with the same difficult location decisions that face their U.S. counterparts.

Since the Japanese government does not collect information on FDI in the same detail as does the U.S., the available data are gathered using surveys. According to a survey carried out by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), many Japanese companies have been actively investing abroad in recent years: Based on their data, MITI determined that almost one third of Japanese manufacturing affiliates located overseas as of 1989 were established after fiscal year 1986. Growth in Japanese FDI in the United States was especially significant during this time period. A high-yen situation encourages this trend to continue.

The U.S. has also found FDI in Japan attractive, even though Japan has traditionally resisted foreign FDI within its borders. During the 1983-88 time period, the total number of U.S. foreign affiliates located in Japan increased from 655 to 694. Dollars invested in affiliates, including loans, increased from $8,059 million to $17,927 million over the same period of time. Notice, however, that the growth rate of U.S. FDI in Japan does not approach that of Japanese investment in the U.S.

Japan's strongest competitive advantages in the economic arena of FDI are the organizational strength of Japanese firms and the role of its government. Japanese companies adopt an international outlook due to the conditions in their home market. Chernotsky (1987, p. 50) indicated that the Japanese industrial system is strongly supported by an "intricate network of incentives." Japan's government has been able to provide both financing and international experience for Japanese firms interested in expansion overseas.

Japanese government focus is on long-term structural issues. Taxes are payable only by individual companies (i.e., no affiliated companies can group together to offset profit and loss), but a foreign tax credit is allowed for taxes paid to other countries. The U.S. is stronger in the service sector than the Japanese. This area may have the greatest growth potential for U.S. FDI. Unlike Japanese firms, who may feel "pushed" into FDI, U.S. firms feel the "pull" of foreign markets.

The U.S. government has not developed a consistent, coherent program for FDI and MNEs. Most laws were developed in relationship to tax, foreign, trade, or balance of payments policies. The focus has been on short-term crises, without regard to long-term implications of actions taken. A foreign tax credit is allowed for taxes paid to foreign central governments and tax deferral allows no U.S. tax to be paid on a foreign subsidiary's income until it is repatriated to the U.S. Unlike Japanese companies, affiliated U.S. companies are allowed to compute taxable profits as though they are a single firm.

The U.S. and Japan have taken different paths on their routes to increasing FDI. With the exception of the 1960s, U.S. companies have been encouraged to enter the global economy since the mid-1930s. Japanese companies were constrained in FDI until the early 1970s. This difference in strategy could therefore be expected to result in differences between these two countries' FDI position worldwide. Accordingly, we would expect significant differences between U.S. and Japanese FDI in the EC.

Samples and Methodology

We studied a number of subsidiaries in the EC controlled by the largest Japanese and the largest U.S. industrial enterprises. Japanese companies included 126 of Fortune's 150 largest Asian companies matched by the largest 126 U.S. companies from Fortune's 1990 list of the largest 500 American companies. However, since not all of these enterprises had FDI in Europe where ownership was at least 50%, our final sample includes 49 Japanese and 66 U.S. companies.

In a narrow sense, FDI applies to those cases where a foreign enterprise holds a large enough share in the ownership of a firm so that it has some control over the firm's decisions. Unfortunately, the terms "large enough to have some control" are very vague. It is possible for a company to own a substantial number of shares of another company, e.g. 75 percent, without planning to exercise control. On the other hand, some enterprises, owning only a small percentage of the stock of another company, may attempt to influence its day-to-day operations. Because it is impossible to capture human motivations in official statistics, a more or less arbitrary cutoff point is often used.

The same approach has been used in this study. The cutoff point has been defined as at least a 50% ownership in a foreign subsidiary.

Using this criterion, our final sample includes 115 enterprises: 49 Japanese and 66 U.S. companies. The reduced size of the final sample, i.e., 45.6% of the initial 252 companies, is due to a lack of data available for some enterprises, elimination of companies which were subsidiaries of others, or instances where a selected enterprise did not have a 50% ownership in at least one subsidiary located in the EC. For these 115 companies, several preliminary statistics have been computed. These statistics pertain to (i) industrial classification, and (ii) selected accounting information. Industrial classification is shown in Table 1.

Industry Classification. Japanese and U.S. enterprises included in this study belong to a total of 20 different industries. The Japanese companies with FDI in the EC belong to 14 different industries and the U.S. companies with FDI in the EC belong to 17 different industries. The U.S. has 14 companies operating in the following industries: aerospace (4), beverages (2), forest products (4), publishing (1), soaps and cosmetics (2), and tobacco (1), but there are no Japanese companies in these industries. Japan, however, has companies operating in the following industries not represented in the U.S. sample: building materials (2), crude oil and mining (2), and transportation equipment (1).
Table 1

Japanese and U.S. Industry Classification

 Number of
 per Industry
Industry Japan U.S. T-

Aerospace 0 4 -2.052(*)
Beverages 0 2 -1.432
Building Materials 2 0 -1.432
Chemical 5 5 0.127
Computers 3 5 -0.619
Crude Oil and Mining 2 0 1.434
Electronics 8 7 0.430
Food 2 8 -1.897(*)
Forest Products 0 4 -2.052(*)
Industrial and Farming Equipment 7 2 1.820(*)
Metal Products 1 4 -1.312
Motor Vehicle 8 5 1.011
Petroleum Refining 1 7 -2.155(*)
Pharmaceutical 3 5 -0.619
Publishing 0 1 -1.006
Rubber and Plastics 1 1 -0.055
Scientific and Photo Equipment 5 3 0.833
Soaps and Cosmetics 0 2 -1.432
Tobacco 0 1 -1.006
Transportation Equipment 1 0 1.007

T-Proportion refers to the following statistic:

t = ([P.sub.US]-[P.sub.J]) / [square root of [P.sub.US](1-[P.sub.US]) -

where [P.sub.US] and [P.sub.J] are the proportion of companies in the U.S. and
in Japan, respectively.

* Significant at 5%

In order to assess statistical comparability between the Japanese and U.S. industrial classifications, a test of proportion comparison has been computed. For this test, the null hypothesis (H0) assumes no statistically significant difference between the number of Japanese companies and the number of U.S. companies in a particular industry. The alternative hypothesis (H1) assumes a statistically significant difference. The results of the test indicate that we cannot reject H0 for 15 industries among the 20 analyzed. For those industries, Japanese and U.S. European industry distributions are quite comparable. Japanese and U.S. European industry distributions differ for aerospace, food, forest products, industrial and farming equipment, and petroleum refining. For four of these industries, U.S. representation is significantly greater than the Japanese. In only one industry (industrial and farming equipment), Japanese representation is greater than that of the U.S.

Accounting Information. Accounting data were collected and analyzed for the year 1989. These data include: (i) sales, (ii) profits, (iii) total assets, and (iv) stockholders' equity. Four financial ratios were computed with the data.(2) The first ratio is defined as sales divided by total assets (R1), the second as profit divided by total assets (R2), the third as profit divided by shareholders' equity (R3), and the last as profit divided by sales (R4).

The evidence indicates that U.S. companies' sales, profits, assets and stockholders' equity are approximately twice as large as those for the Japanese companies.(3) If these factors can be considered good proxies for size, the average U.S. company sampled may be much larger than the average Japanese company sampled. Note however, that two U.S. companies reported negative profit. Hence, while no Japanese companies in our sample suffered a loss in the period under examination, two U.S. companies did so.(4)

Several additional observations can be made. First, the total asset turnover ratio (R1), which measures the turnover, or utilization of all the firm's assets, is somewhat lower in the Japanese (1.002) than in the U.S. (1.070) sample. The Mann-Whitney test indicates that this difference is statistically significant. This result is not validated by Student's t-test. Relying on the more powerful statistic, Student's t-test, this indicates that Japanese and U.S. companies do not generate significantly different volumes of business given the size of their total asset investment.

Second, the ratio of profit/total assets (R2) is twice as large for U.S. companies (0.06) than for Japanese companies (0.03). At first glance, this may indicate that U.S. earning power of assets is higher than Japanese earning power of assets. This result is confirmed by the statistical test computed. Both Student's t-test and the Mann-Whitney Z test indicate that there is a significant statistical difference between the two means. This difference may be linked to differences in accounting practices and tax law in the two countries. Tax differences suggest that earnings before interest and taxes should be used instead of profit in the numerator of this ratio. Data limitations prevented us from computing this ratio.

Third, R3 (profit divided by shareholders' equity) is also two times larger for the U.S. sample (0.16) than for the Japanese sample (0.08). This ratio indicates that U.S. companies' return on equity is greater than Japanese companies' return on equity. This observation is validated by both statistical tests concerning the mean of the two samples. Several factors may explain this observed difference. Among these is a possibility of a difference in shareholders' mentality. Japanese investors may induce Japanese companies to reinvest more in their companies. This higher reinvestment rate may, in turn, increase the denominator and thus decrease the average value of the ratio.

Fourth, the ratio of profit divided by sales (profit margin) is also twice as large for U.S. companies (0.06) than for Japanese companies (0.03). The statistical test indicates that the means of these two ratios are significantly different.

The results obtained using Student's t-tests are validated by the results obtained using the Mann-Whitney Z test for each ratio except R1. Consequently, it is reasonable to conclude that Japanese and U.S. companies samples are quite dissimilar. This clearly indicates that (i) the utilization of the firms' assets (R1), (ii) the firms' earnings power (R2), (iii) firms' return on equity (R3), and (iv) the profit margin (R4) of Japanese and U.S. companies are very different. These ratios are all higher for U.S. companies than for Japanese companies.

This evidence suggests either that U.S. companies outperform their Japanese counterparts or that accounting practices are different in Japan and the U.S. The "Market Share Hypothesis" discussed by Mito (1982) indicates that U.S. companies emphasize profit while Japanese companies emphasize market share. Since three of the four computed ratios have "profit" in their numerator, larger ratios for U.S. companies must be expected. The following section relates these observed differences to the number and location of Japanese and U.S. subsidiaries in the EC.

Foreign Direct Investment

The number of foreign subsidiaries as of 1989 was obtained from Moodys for each of the 115 companies. Table 2 presents these data. Analysis of this table allows several observations. First, if we compare the total number of subsidiaries owned by Japanese companies in the U.S. with the total number of subsidiaries owned by U.S. companies in Japan, we find that 47 of the 49 Japanese companies (96%) have FDI in the U.S., but that only 44 of the 60 U.S. companies (73%) have FDI in Japan. This smaller FDI level of U.S. companies in Japan can be explained by: the substantial barriers, both formal and informal to American investment in Japan; the smaller size of the Japanese market, making it less attractive to some American companies; and the lack of raw materials available for production in Japan.

Further analysis of the data shows that for every EC country studied, the mean and maximum obtained when using Japanese data are smaller than the mean and maximum for U.S. companies.(4) This second observation may be explained by the fact that Japanese FDI is still at the early stage of expansion. There has been a shift in Japanese FDI away from Asian countries and toward the Western hemisphere, especially the United States, only since 1972. Evidence, thus, reflects historical events.

The evidence also indicates that the number of subsidiaries located in Luxembourg and Eastern Europe is quite limited. The case of Luxembourg is surprising since Luxembourg has the reputation of being a small "fiscal paradise." The case of Eastern Europe is certainly less surprising. The year of the study is 1989 and most of the historical changes in the economy of the Eastern European countries had not yet transpired.
Table 2

The number of Japanese and U.S. Subsidiaries per Country

Country Japan U.S.

Total number of companies in sample 49 66
Total foreign subsidiaries worldwide 1,049 2,822
Total in Japan -- 86
Total in the U.S. 240 --
Total in the EC 275 1,069
Total in Belgium 17 86
Total in Denmark 3 38
Total in France 38 161
Total in Germany 69 160
Total in Greece 0 10
Total in Italy 19 102
Total in Luxembourg 0 2
Total in the Netherlands 40 183
Total in Portugal 3 22
Total in Spain 14 78
Total in the UK(*) 71 226
Total in Eastern Europe(**) 1 1

* UK includes Ireland

** "Eastern Europe" includes Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria

The null hypotheses of mean equality for Japanese and U.S. companies' FDI in each country were tested with Student t-tests and Mann-Whitney Z tests.(6) The null hypothesis is rejected at least at the 5% level for each country except Belgium. Evidence also shows that for each European country, the U.S. companies control more subsidiaries than their Japanese counterpart. As discussed previously, this result may be explained by the relatively new role played by Japan on the international scene.

Although U.S. companies own relatively more European subsidiaries in the EC than Japanese companies, results show that U.S. and Japanese strategy in the EC is comparable. The U.S. and Japanese companies own only a few subsidiaries in Eastern Europe and in Luxembourg. Companies in both countries own a limited number of subsidiaries in Spain, Greece, and Portugal. A strong preference for France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK is shown by both. There are several explanations for their preferred location in these countries.

The Netherlands is known for its principle of nondiscrimination toward FDI and ease of entry. There are few special rules that apply to foreign-owned businesses and the Netherlands' tax system is neutral toward foreign investors. Further, the Nether-lands has a history of very low inflation.

France has a tax reduction policy, although it is still relatively high for the EC. They are also known for their sound financial situation in their business sector and an upturn in gross fixed capital formation.
Table 3

T-Tests for Differences Between Number of Japanese and U.S. Subsidiaries By
Industrial Classification For Four Countries

Industry France UK Germany Netherlands

[1] Aerospace -1.43 -1.76(*) (*) -1.00
[1] Beverages -1.00 -1.00 -1.00 (*)
[2] Building Materials (*) 1.00 1.00 1.00
Chemical -1.62 -0.62 -1.71(*) -1.62
Computers -1.31 -0.62 -0.62 -1.07
[2] Crude Oil and
Mining (*) 1.43 (*) 1.00
Electronics 0.77 0.74 0.43 -0.22
Food -2.15(*) -2.15(*) -1.62 -2.55(*)
[1] Forest Products -1.43 -1.76(*) -1.76(*) -1.43
Industrial and Farming
Equipment 0.08 2.01(*) 1.74(*) 1.74(*)
Metal Products -1.76(*) -1.43 -2.05(*) -0.95
Motor Vehicle 0.11 0.45 1.01 -0.28
Petroleum Refining -1.43 -1.90(*) -1.76(*) -2.31(*)
Pharmaceutical -1.62 -2.05(*) -0.75 -1.76(*)
[1] Publishing (*) (*) (*) -1.00
Rubber and Plastics 0.05 0.05 0.05 1.00
Scientific and Photo
Equipment 1.25 1.73(*) 1.43 0.54
[1] Soaps and Cosmetics -1.43 -1.43 -1.00 -1.00
[1] Tobacco -1.00 -1.00 (*) (*)
[2] Transportation
Equipment 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00

* No company in our sample operating in this industry is located in this

[1] No Japanese companies in our sample operate in this industry. Thus any
statistically significant differences are the result of this occurrence. See
Table 1.

[2] No U.S. companies in our sample operate in this industry. Thus any
statistically significant differences are the result of this occurrence. See
Table 1.

* Significant at 5%

Note: If the sign of the t-score is positive, there are more Japanese
subsidiaries. than U.S. subsidiaries. If the sign is negative, the opposite is

The UK offers several tax incentives for foreign investors. Additionally, a common language may make the UK an attractive location for FDI.(7) France, the UK and the U.S. were allies in the first and second world wars. The U.S. undertook the reconstruction of Germany after its defeat in World War II. Finally, since a crushed post-war Germany has been rebuilt, it now offers a modern infrastructure suitable to foreign investments.

For this group of countries (i.e., France, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands), an additional statistical analysis has been performed to assess Japanese and U.S. industrial distribution in those countries. Student's t-tests were computed to test for differences across industry between the U.S. and Japanese companies. Results are reported in Table 3.

Results indicate that relatively more U.S. than Japanese companies are located in these four countries. This observation is particularly pronounced for the chemical, food, metal products, pharmaceutical, and petroleum industries. Results also show that Japanese companies own more subsidiaries than the U.S. companies in the electronic, industrial and farming equipment, motor vehicle, scientific and photo equipment industries. Notice, however, that it is only in the industrial and farming equipment and the scientific and photo industries that Japanese companies own a statistically significant greater number of EC subsidiaries in at least one of the four countries than their U.S. counterpart. This last piece of evidence does not validate the common belief that Japanese companies dominate the electronic and motor vehicle industries in the EC.


This study investigates, compares, and analyzes FDI in the EC for a sample of the largest Japanese and American companies. The FDI position of these companies was determined by calculating the number of controlled subsidiaries in the EC for each company in our sample.

Data analysis for our sample of Japanese and American companies allows several observations. First, the Japanese companies operate in 14 of the 20 industrial sectors identified, and the U.S. companies operate in 17 of those industries. Statistical analysis indicates only 5 between-group differences for the number of companies operating in each industry.

Second, significant differences between the financial ratios computed for the companies included in each sample were found. Using sales, profits, assets, or stockholders' equity as a surrogate for size indicates that American companies, on average, are much larger than the Japanese companies in this study. Third, evidence shows that Japanese companies own significantly less subsidiaries than the U.S. companies in almost every European country. This last observation can be contrasted with the relatively large number of Japanese subsidiaries located in the U.S.

The countries in which no differences are observed include France, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. It is possible that Japanese and U.S. companies have invested in these countries for similar reasons. Analysis within these countries shows that of 18 statistically significant differences by industry, the U.S. dominates in 14 of them. Japan dominates in only four, three of which are in the industrial and farming equipment industry.

Since modern commercial technology is often spawned in MNEs, U.S. and Japanese FDI can be expected to become increasingly important in the industrial and economic life of EC counties. Most foreign affiliates will probably remain under home control since fast air travel and the ability to transmit and analyze large amounts of information is progressing rapidly. Intercountry sales will be much more feasible as the EC unifies and improvements in transportation facilities will likely facilitate commerce. Additionally, several Eastern European countries have recently become accessible and may offer new FDI opportunities for Japan and the U.S.

Some EC countries may perceive a reduction of national sovereignty if foreign subsidiaries pursue objectives in conflict to those of the host country. However, the EC, like countries everywhere is coming to grips with a global economy.

Finally, future Japanese and U.S. FDI strategy may be expected to change. The unification of the 12 EC countries may present problems for future Japanese and U.S. FDI. The companies we studied have already located FDI in at least one EC country. These "Trojan Horses" have very little fear of a possible "Fortress Europe."


1. These countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom (UK).

2. All ratios were computed using U.S. dollars. Complete statistical results are available upon request.

3. It is possible that some differences between the two samples are due to differences in the application of accounting methods in the two countries.

4. Some U.S. companies have a deficit large enough in their Retained Earnings that their total shareholders' equity is negative. These companies are excluded from our analysis.

5. Complete statistical results are available upon request.

6. Complete statistical results are available upon request.

7. English is the second language in Japan.


Caves, R.E., "International Corporations: The Industrial Economies of Foreign Investment," Economica, February 1971, p. 1-27.

Chernotsky, H.I., "The American Connection: Motives for Japanese Foreign Direct Investment," The Columbia Journal of World Business, Winter 1987, p. 47-54.

Giddy, I.H., "The Demise of the Product Cycle Model in International Business Theory," Columbia Journal of World Business, Spring 1987, p. 90-91.

Hymer, S.H., "The Efficiency of Multinational Corporations," American Economic Review, May 1970, p. 441-448.

Mito, T., "The Internationalization of Japanese Management," Planning Review, March 1982, p. 30-46.

Weekly, J.K, and Aggarwal, R., International Business, Holt and Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1987.

Francisca M. Beer is Associate Professor of Finance, Department of Accounting and Finance, California State University, San Bernardino, CA and Suzanne N. Cory is Associate Professor of Accounting, School of Business and Administration, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX.
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Author:Beer, Francisca M.; Cory, Suzanne N.
Publication:Review of Business
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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