If you drive it, eat it, fly it, or wear it, there's a good chance this company is involved with it. ITOCHU Corporation is a leading Japanese sogo shosha (general trading company), along with Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi, and has business interests in such diverse areas as aerospace, equipment manufacturing, food distribution, and clothing production. It also has interests and operations in chemicals, energy and mining, financial services, and retailing. The conglomerate has approximately 130 offices in 67 countries and operates through some 500 subsidiaries and affiliated companies around the world.
In 2011 ITOCHU began rebounding from a flat fiscal 2010 caused by sagging prices for raw materials and energy and a downturn in the economy. It saw its revenues jump to $43.9 billion in 2011, nearly 7% over the previous year, despite the effects of the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011. Driving the hike was higher sales in several divisions, higher prices for mineral resources and oil and gas operations, returns from its strategic investments, and higher volumes of transactions in its chemicals businesses. It also saw net income increase nearly 26%, to about $2 billion, following ITOCHU's jettisoning of inefficient assets and the tidying up of pending problems on its balance sheet by March 2011.
In what it calls its "Brand-new Deal 2012," ITOCHU believes it is financially ready to seek new opportunities and expand the scale of its operations. Among targets it has set for 2012 are to increase its net income by 49% over 2011, expand operations in China, increase assets in the machinery-related sector, and expand its natural resources operations. It also will seek acquisitions in regions besides China, based on the strategies of its individual divisions.
ITOCHU has invested the past few years in streamlining its business divisions and focusing on growth industries. It is looking to expand its involvement in new energy resources, pharmaceutical marketing, and environmental services, as well as communications, logistics, and technology services. Geographically, the company continues to increase its presence in China and North America; however, its domestic operations still account for some three-quarters of its revenue.
Following its strategy, ITOCHU formed a joint venture in 2011 in China with Toho Holdings and Jointown Pharmaceutical Group to distribute Japanese-made wholesale drugs and medical equipment in China. Based in Wuhan in Hubei province, the venture will sell over-the-counter medicines and daily goods -- such as disposable pocket warmers -- to local drugstores. It will also market prescription drugs and medical equipment, such as X-ray machines, to hospitals. Toho holds 41% of the venture, with ITOCHU holding 10% and Jointown the balance.
In another move to expand its overseas operations in 2011, ITOCHU acquired UK auto repair business Kwik-Fit (GB) Ltd. from European private equity firm PAI Partners for about $1 billion. The purchase, which boosts ITOCHU's presence in Europe's auto services market, was something of a bargain -- PAI Partners paid about $1.5 billion in 2005 after a bidding war for the company.
ITOCHU also agreed to acquire a 20% stake in a Colombian coal mine in a joint venture with US miner Drummond Co. The $1.5 billion deal will tie up the two companies in a mine with about 2 billion tons of provable and probable coal reserves. The deal fits ITOCHU's strategy of raising its equity share in coal mining operations to about 20 million tons per year by 2015.
To raise cash, in 2011 the company sold US-based diesel engine marketer and distributor EMDSI - Hunt Power to Stewart & Stevenson for an undisclosed price. That year it also unloaded subsidiary Cieco Energy Ventures, which held oil and gas properties in the Gulf of Mexico, to Houston-based Tammany Oil & Gas for an undisclosed price.