President's New Year Message for 2016

January 4, 2016

ITOCHU held a New Year’s Ceremony attended by approximately 2,000 employees at the Tokyo Head Office’s first floor lobby from 9 a.m. on January 4. Following President & CEO Masahiro Okafuji’s New Year’s Message, there was a full program that included unveiling of a stone monument adorned with the corporate message “I am One with Infinite Missions,” a joint opera performance by an ITOCHU executive officer and Japan’s leading tenor, and a final cheer of support by the ITOCHU cheerleading squad. The full text of President Okafuji’s New Year’s Message follows.

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

I hope that you have been able to spend your year end-New Year’s holiday together with family and friends and fully reenergize yourselves. I believe everyone is now ready to begin the new year today, refreshed and renewed.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer a few words of greeting to members of the ITOCHU Group in Japan and around the world.

Looking back at last year, 2015 was a milestone year for both Japan and the ITOCHU Group. The Nikkei Stock Average rose above the 20,000 yen mark at one point to reach its highest level in 15 years. The yen-U.S. dollar exchange rate rose above the 124 yen mark in May for the first time in 12 years. The unemployment rate saw its lowest levels in 18 years, while the ratio of active job openings to applicants recovered to its highest level in 23 years. All in all, 2015 saw the Japanese economy finally emerge from a long tunnel, supported by the positive effects of the government’s “Abenomics” policies over the past three years. Turning to the global economy, while the U.S. and other developed countries are expected to continue their gradual improvement, China is experiencing slower economic growth as the economy readjusts to a “new normal.” Moreover, factors such as low resource prices are causing a further slowdown in emerging economies. In particular, there are grave concerns about the growing burden of risk associated with emerging countries such as Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. Under these circumstances, after working for nearly two years on the reorganization of Nacional Minérios S.A. (NAMISA), an iron ore business in Brazil, ITOCHU finally completed the process by the end of 2015. With this step, ITOCHU has succeeded in substantially reducing a major source of potential risk for the future.

2015 marked an historic year for ITOCHU as well. In my New Year’s message last year, I stated that “our third-place position among sogo shosha should be regarded as a transit point, and that we must remain focused on the high target of becoming the industry’s leading player.” At that time, I regarded becoming one of the top two sogo shosha as a “target” and becoming the number one sogo shosha as a “dream”. However, thanks to all of your tireless efforts, our business performance has progressed in line with our initial forecast and, albeit temporarily, our dream to become the number one sogo shosha has unexpectedly come within reach.

We shall make 2016 a year of great strides. It marks the middle year of “Brand-new Deal 2017”, our current three-year Medium-term Management Plan, and it’s no exaggeration to say 2016 will be a critical year that will determine the success of the plan. 2016 is the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac. In China, the monkey is an animal symbolizing moving upward and success. The Chinese character for monkey (申) in the Chinese zodiac is derived from the image of stretching of a lightning bolt, and it signifies growth as well as ripening and solidifying of fruit. The auspicious direction of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac is west-southwest. From our vantage point in Japan, the west-southwest points to China and the rest of Asia. 2016 is indeed the year when we will “solidify and reap tangible fruit” from our strategic alliances with CITIC Limited and the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), drive earnings “growth,” and set the pace for what will become a historic Medium-term Management Plan for ITOCHU.

Our path ahead is clear. First, we must achieve our ambition of making ITOCHU the number one sogo shosha in terms of profit attributable to shareholders in the first three months of 2016. Nevertheless, our goal is not to briefly shine as the number one sogo shosha at one point in time. Rather, we aim to gain the competitive strength needed to be a consistent contender for the industry’s top position. We must seek to join the ranks of the top-ranked sogo shosha groups and establish a firm position for ITOCHU as one of the two strongest players in the sector.

Now, please remind yourselves to rigorously adhere to the basics of our business by recommitting yourselves to the principles of “Earn, Cut, and Prevent.” Honing our frontline capabilities, we must make 2016 a year for ITOCHU to “Seize the moment and press forward.” I urge you all to strive to put ITOCHU at the forefront of Japan’s strong growth on the world stage. Now is not the time to let up or relive your New Year’s holiday. I ask all ITOCHU Group members to come together as one, to build a glorious new ITOCHU Group.



  • *
    • Following the president’s message was the unveiling of a stone monument featuring the Corporate Message “I am One with Infinite Missions.”



  • *
    • ITOCHU Executive Officer Mitsuru Chino, tenor singer Dai Watanabe and piano accompaniment by Yuriko Komai and Makina Kato, close friends of General Manager Chino, gave a performance of Libiamo ne' lieti calici, from Act 1 of Verdi’s opera, La traviata. The ceremony ended with the traditional cheer by the ITOCHU cheerleading squad.