The focus of demand for electronic gas has shifted completely from the US and Japan to Korea and Taiwan.

This is especially evident in specialty gas use where Japan remains the largest production base in the world in this field. Differences exist between gases but according to Showa Denko, $quot;The ratio of exports has risen to nearly 70 percent mainly to East Asia.$quot;

According to Kanto Denka Kogyo, $quot;The weight accounted for by the domestic demand is comparatively high but even so exports account for 60 percent.$quot;

Other specialty gas producers show the same trend, with their export ratios being 60-70 percent. This is quite different from the picture five years ago when is was the domestic sales ratio that accounted for 60-70 percent of sales.

That fact that the ratio has reversed itself so drastically is due to the growth of the market in Korea and Taiwan and the maturing of the market in Japan.

Simply put, the discrepancy in growth is due to the differences in capital investment on the part of the semi-conductor and LCD producers. In Korea many manufacturers including LG Phillips LCD, Samsung Electronics, and others have been actively engaged in capital investment since 2000 and they have brought in state of the art plants.

On the other hand the Japanese market has been subject to consolidation and reorganisation - not a situation conducive to investment. A few companies such as Elpida and Toshiba have large scale spending plans though there seems little evidence of a need for plant closures.

This is due to the fact that although Japan's usage may drop, with over 20 major chemical producers based in the country it is likely to remain the focus of production and supply for some time.