Sitel Pulls Out of Japan

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TOKYO - Sitel, the Nebraska-based global call center company, effectively decided last month to pull out of the Japanese market in a deal with Bellsystem 24 that was dubbed "a broad-ranging exclusive strategic partnership."


Bellsystem 24, Sitel said in a statement, "will acquire the assets associated with Sitel's contact center in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa prefecture, where it will begin operating during the second quarter. Sitel will incur a one-time after-tax charge of about $2 million."


Sitel has been in Japan since 1996 when it set up a call center operation to handle telemarketing needs for western catalog and then Internet companies. A year later the company formed Sitel Japan located in Kawasaki.


But it did not formally launch as a corporation in Japan until February 1999 after several years of studying market and other conditions in the country. It may have been a last hurrah, observers said.


Problems began arising in the last half of 1999 with rumors rife in the industry that Sitel Japan was in trouble managing its call center. Sources close to Sitel said staff began to leave the company before the end of last year.


Under the terms of last month's agreement, Bellsystem 24, one of Japan's largest call center operations, will provide and implement electronic customer relationship management and other support services for Sitel's Japanese clients as well as for other U.S. firms that may want to enter the Japanese market.


In turn, Sitel will provide eCRM systems for Bellsystem's U.S. clients. The agreement includes terms for sharing revenue but neither company would disclose any additional financial details.

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