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A keiretsu is a group of closely related Japanese companies, often with interlocking ownership. Traditionally, there have been both horizontal and vertical keiretsu. Horizontal keiretsu center on a main bank and their companies span various industries. Vertical keiretsu center on a major manufacturer, like Toyota, and include its various suppliers and wholesalers. The keiretsu encourage its members to award contracts to sister companies and cooperate with each other for the overall good of the keiretsu. The keiretsu dominated the Japanese economy in the last half of the twentieth century. More recently, however, the keiretsu have been losing their grip, and the long-term business relationships of the keiretsu are fraying. When written in Japanese, keiretsu comprises two characters, meaning "system" and "row". Thus the term keiretsu is now used more generally to mean an alliance of companies and individuals that work together for mutual benefit.

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