Foreign companies operating in Japan saw their combined pretax profits for fiscal 2001 slip 0.2 percent from the previous year to 1.22 trillion yen, marking the first decline in four years, according to a government survey released Thursday.

Sales at these companies dropped 3.3 percent in the year to 25.7 trillion yen, down for the first time in three years, the survey by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry states.

But their pretax profit-to-sales ratio stood at 4.8 percent, up 0.1 point, well above the 2.1 percent recorded by Japanese companies.

METI surveyed 3,870 firms owned at least one-third by foreign investors on Oct. 1. Of these, 1,985, or 51.3 percent, responded. About 80 percent of the respondents were U.S. or European companies.

The ministry also said that 135 firms entered Japan in the reporting year, down by three from fiscal 2000. Forty of these were manufacturers, up nine, and 95 were nonmanufacturers, down 12.

One hundred businesses left Japan, down 19.

Of these, 31 were manufactures and 69 were nonmanufacturers.

The survey shows that 63.9 percent of respondents, including chemical, wholesale and information technology companies, said they will expand their operations in Japan in the future, up 6.1 points, while 4.1 percent said they will downsize their trade, down 3.2 points.

The companies posted 963.9 billion yen in capital spending over the year, up 5.3 percent and marking a third straight yearly increase.

Their total workforce stood at 329,000, down 0.5 percent.

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