Lawson Inc. and Japan Post said Wednesday the convenience store operator will handle Japan Post parcels at its 7,850 outlets nationwide starting in mid-November.

The tieup terminates Lawson’s alliance with Yamato Transport Co. At present, Lawson exclusively handles Yamato’s packages.

Lawson and Japan Post already have a tieup deal, with Japan Post’s mailboxes set up in Lawson outlets and Lawson opening stores inside post offices.

Japan Post has been seeking to expand the deal to include parcel delivery, but Lawson’s exclusive contract with Yamato had stood in the way.

Lawson decided to switch partners because it believes a tieup with the public entity, which is to be privatized in stages starting in 2007, offers more opportunities, company officials said.

Although Lawson offered to continue handling Yamato packages along with Japan Post items, a Yamato spokesman said it could not stay in the tieup because it would be difficult to continue offering high-quality service.

While expressing disappointment with Lawson’s decision, the spokesman said Yamato will make maximum efforts to ensure that customers are not inconvenienced after its contract with Lawson expires.

Japan Post President Masaharu Ikuta told a news conference that it will be commendable if his company’s parcel delivery service gains greater recognition at convenience stores.

Asked if the partnership with Lawson will hamper private sector businesses, he said competition will not be thwarted because Japan Post accounts for only 6 percent of the entire parcel delivery service market.

Japan Post, created in April 2003 as a government-backed corporation to take over the mail delivery, postal savings and life insurance businesses, is currently under the supervision of the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

Regional postal hearing

SOKA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) A Liberal Democratic Party panel on Wednesday held its first regional public hearing to solicit concerns that privatization may erode the quality of postal services.

The LDP panel, led by House of Representatives member Jin Murai, hopes to provide counterproposals to the two main components of the government-led plan to privatize postal services: dividing the services into several entities and turning Japan Post into a joint-stock corporation.

Participants voiced caution about the privatization. Some said they do not see any merits for customers, while others said privatization will cause government bond prices to tumble as the postal savings and life insurance systems hold about a quarter of outstanding bonds.

Murai said in his remarks it is doubtful whether the government is pushing for privatization based on a correct understanding of the actual situation of the postal services.

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