TRW Information Systems and Services has forged an alliance with one of Japan's leading credit bureaus to help lenders in both countries approve Japanese and American expatriates for credit.

The Orange, Calif.-based provider of consumer credit reports said its partnership with Central Communications Bureau Inc., one of four credit bureaus in Japan, is the first of its kind in Japan and one of just a few such international partnerships.

The other two major American credit bureaus, Trans Union Corp. of Chicago and Equifax Inc. of Atlanta, have similar deals with their counterparts in Canada.

In addition, next month TRW will launch a joint venture in Mexico called Datacredit that will offer cross-border consumer credit information.

TRW and Central Communications Bureau will provide lenders with consumer credit reports. The American company said the expatriate business executives and students living in Japan and the United States will benefit from the new partnership - as will lenders, since these tend to be creditworthy consumers.

Granting credit to these expatriates has been difficult, partly because of restrictive privacy legislation, TRW said.

Andrew C. Meinke, director of international operations at TRW Information Systems and Services, acknowledged that the market is "not a huge volume niche - it could be measured in terms of hundreds of thousands, rather than millions of people."

Central Communications Bureau, headquartered in Tokyo, holds information on 23 million Japanese consumers. It is also the only credit bureau in Japan that offers information from a variety of credit sources. The other three credit bureaus there specialize in specific industries, collecting information from only one type of source, like banks or retailers.

Like the American credit bureaus it emulates but unlike most foreign credit bureaus, Central Communications Bureau collects both negative and positive consumer credit data, said Mr. Meinke.

The Japanese credit bureau was formed in 1979. TRW has had a relationship with it since the start, and in March 1993 bought an interest of less than 10%. "CCB was interested in making some fundamental changes and in getting our help in improving its services," said Mr. Meinke.

He said the new initiative has already accomplished two of its goals: providing credit reports on former U.S. residents to Japanese credit grantors and providing U.S. lenders with reports on people who have lived in Japan.

The remaining challenge, Mr. Meinke said, is to inform lenders of these services.

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