Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd. said Tuesday that they have reached an agreement to integrate their steelmaking machinery operations, a move that would create the world’s second-largest manufacturer of such equipment.

“We have reached an agreement to collaborate in rolling mills in the hopes of securing a leading role in the global market,” the two companies said in a statement.

“We will examine ways to build a full-scale partnership that will cover design and manufacturing,” they said.

Mitsubishi Heavy controls around 20 percent of the global hot-rolling mill market, while Hitachi holds around 30 percent of the world’s cold-rolling mill market.

The two companies plan to set up an equally owned company in October to undertake combined marketing and engineering services for their mills. The new firm is also to assume other relevant operations, such as design and manufacturing, by 2002, sources close to the companies said.

The latest move comes amid a decline in new orders for steel-manufacturing machinery in the wake of an economic slump in Southeast Asia, which subsequently prompted manufacturers in Europe to integrate themselves into three groups.

The global market for steel mills has shrunk to around 120 billion yen, down from a peak of nearly 300 billion yen, according to industry officials.

Net consultant to start

Hitachi Ltd. and Internet outsourcing firm Trans Cosmos Inc. agreed to a business tieup in the fields of consulting and Internet solutions aimed at firms planning to enter Internet-related businesses, the two firms announced Tuesday.

Under the tieup, the two firms will offer comprehensive services ranging from systems integration to customer management services. They will target corporate customers conducting e-commerce and e-business, officials of the firms said.

As the first project under the alliance, the firms will jointly set up service centers in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka in September. They plan to increase the number of service centers to eight.

The proposed alliance will enable the two firms to complement each other, according to company officials. Hitachi is strong in designing and building large-scale computer systems, while Tokyo-based Trans Cosmos has expertise in database marketing, the officials said.

The firms may expand the scope of their cooperation to fields including nurturing and investing in Net venture businesses as well as e-commerce using digital broadcasting systems, they said.