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Japanese companies are now in a much better position than in 2001, although some have shown slowing profit growth, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service said Friday.

In its annual survey on key credit measures for 449 Japanese companies, the U.S. credit-rating agency said the median ratio of operating cash flow to debt improved to 34.8 percent from a low of 16.7 percent in 2001 after the collapse of the information technology bubble.

The median operating margin before depreciation improved to 11.3 percent in fiscal 2004 from 9.5 percent in fiscal 2001, and return on permanent capital rose to 9.1 percent from 5.3 percent.

In some sectors, including electronics and automobiles, however, profit growth is starting to slow due to increased price pressure and heightening competition, S&P said.

“Overall, the pace of improvement in credit indicators may slow, as some companies plan to increase debt as new business opportunities arise,” it said.

“Nevertheless, companies have lowered their break-even points by reducing costs and reduced their debt, and are now in much better position to withstand economic and business downturns,” its said.

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