H.I.S. may come to Nova’s aid

Major travel agency H.I.S. Co. is considering extending assistance to the scandal-tainted Nova Corp. language school chain in the form of a business tieup or financial assistance, sources said Monday.

H.I.S. Chairman Hideo Sawada met with Nova President Nozomu Sahashi late last month in Tokyo to ask about Nova’s financial conditions, according to the sources.

Assistance from H.I.S. would prove a godsend for Nova, which is in desperate need of funds to shore up its sagging operations after the government ordered it to suspend part of its operations as a penalty for fraudulent business practices, the sources said.

Sahashi said in mid-June that Nova will study a capital and business tieup with a partner in another line of business “if necessary,” when he said the company might issue new shares to bolster the firm’s capital base and dispel investor fears.

Meanwhile, an H.I.S. representative said, “The talks (between Sawada and Sahashi) did take place, but no specific deal is in the making.”

An alliance with Nova would probably be appealing to H.I.S. because customers studying foreign languages at Nova could bring in new business for the travel agency, according to industry observers.

Osaka-based Nova, Japan’s biggest English-language school chain, has about 480,000 students. It has been deep in the red for the last two years. Amid its financial plight, allegations surfaced that the company lied to customers in soliciting students and then reneged on the terms of enrollment contracts.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry issued an order June 13 for Nova to suspended part of its business for six months.


A tie-up between Nova Corp. and H.I.S. Co. would be interesting, as Nova and H.I.S. have much in common, both being no strangers to disregarding the laws of Japan:

The nation’s largest discount travel agency, HIS, which also runs foreigner-friendly No.1 Travel, has based the price of some air tickets from Japan on the nationality of the traveler, possibly in breach of Japanese law, The Japan Times has learned.

Foreigners trying to buy discount tickets through the company were quoted higher prices than Japanese customers purchasing discount seats on the same flight.

The policy came to light when the company offered a discount ticket to Los Angeles over the telephone to a Japanese caller, but said it was no longer available at the quoted price after finding out a Canadian was the intended traveler.

It then informed the caller that the price for the ticket would be higher for a non-Japanese customer.

However, Japanese Air Law, Article 105, Paragraph 2, clearly states that “no specific passenger or consigner will be unfairly discriminated against.”