Apple to open new tech center in Japan

The weakness of the yen and proximity to suppliers are seen as motives

Apple will open a technology development center just outside of Tokyo, a move that will bring it closer to parts suppliers.

"We're excited to expand our operations in Japan with a new Technical Development Center in Yokohama which will create dozens of new jobs," Apple spokesman Takashi Takebayashi said via email.

He wouldn't say why Apple is building the facility but stressed it is not an R&D center.

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Japanese media that Apple would be performing "cutting-edge R&D in Japan." He made the remark while campaigning for a general election that takes place Dec. 14.

The research center could open as early as next spring in Yokohama's downtown Minato Mirai district, according to the Nikkei newspaper.

"These new positions join our many employees in Japan, including eight retail stores," the Apple spokesman said. "We are proud of our history here and we thank our many customers for their support over the 30 years Apple has been doing business in Japan."

Media reports have also speculated that the Japanese yen's recent weakness was one factor that prompted Apple to conduct research in Japan. This week, the currency hit a seven-year low at 121.85 yen per dollar, making it cheaper for U.S. businesses to operate in Japan.

By setting up shop in Yokohama, Apple would be closer to key parts suppliers including Sony, which makes camera modules for the iPhone, according to third-party teardowns.

Apple has nearly doubled its R&D expenditures over the past two years. It spent US$6 billion in the year to Sept. 27, 2014, according to its latest annual report, up from $4.5 billion in 2013 and $3.4 billion in 2012.

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Tim Hornyak

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