President's New Year Message for 2018

January 4, 2018

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 performance of a string quartet, held by a four women unit “Lupinus Quartet”, for celebrating the New Year’s beginning.
A cheer of support by the ITOCHU cheerleading squad closed the ceremony.
The full text of President Okafuji’s New Year’s Message follows.

Happy New Year.
I hope you all were able to spend the New Year holiday with friends and family, and that the holiday provided the time to refresh yourselves for the start of a New Year.
To kick off the New Year, I want to take this opportunity to convey a few words to everyone in the ITOCHU Group in Japan and around the world.

Looking back on last year, ITOCHU was successful in accomplishing many goals. Following up on the success of FY2017, we achieved a new record high for income during the first half of FY2018. Our stock price also exceeded 2,000 yen in November, pushing our market value above three trillion yen. Our ranking by Moody’s was elevated to an A, realizing a long-standing goal that took more than 20 years to achieve. We also further strengthened initiatives related to workstyle reform and health management.

Looking at the economic environment, although consumer confidence in Japan has been somewhat slow to recover, the economy is steadily sloughing off deflation. Globally, both the advanced nations and emerging economies are seeing stable growth, and this trend is expected to continue this year as well. But we must remain vigilant and prepared for dramatic changes in the geopolitical environment due to such risk factors as the North Korean problem, policy shifts by the Trump administration, and internal confusion in Britain over the country’s exit from the EU. In China, the highest priority market for ITOCHU, the National Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded in October, finally setting the stage for moving ahead with business.

For the ITOCHU Group, in 2018 we will aim to accomplish the goals outlined in our FY2018 plan and bring a conclusion to the Brand-new Deal 2017, our current Medium-Term Management Plan. With these goals in mind, I want 2018 to be a year in which we aggressively work to develop our business model. As you are all aware, the world is in the midst of a paradigm shift in business models: namely, a “fourth industrial revolution” brought about by the application of next-generation and new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). From the vantage point of Japan, which thus far has been protected by various regulations, it can be difficult to truly sense the speed at which the world is changing.

However, 2018 promises to be a year in which we will see particularly significant change. There is no time to bask in the glory of last year’s strong performance. If we take a defensive stance, we will quickly be left behind the rest of the world. Let’s make today the day when we forget everything that was good about last year and recommit ourselves to starting over from scratch.

The strength of a sogo shosha, or comprehensive trading company, is supposed to be its ability to quickly identify and turn to its commercial advantage the latest changes in global markets. In the past, I have never really spoken much about the “earn” element of our “earn, cut, prevent” principles because earning is something at which you excel. However, moving forward we must evolve our approach to earning. I want you all to maintain a sense of urgency regarding these rapidly changing times and stay “hungry” by constantly taking on new challenges. Rather than seeking reasons why you cannot succeed, be ready to pursue trial and error and see what you can accomplish.

As we begin our duties with refreshed mind and spirit, let’s make 2018 a year in which we invigorate our business model to keep in advance of today’s changing markets and a year in which ITOCHU Group makes another leap forward.