Japanese trading houses — a darling of Warren Buffett’s — posted strong earnings last quarter, despite a drop in commodity prices over the period and China’s disappointing economic rebound.
(Bloomberg) — Japanese trading houses — a darling of Warren Buffett’s — posted strong earnings last quarter, despite a drop in commodity prices over the period and China’s disappointing economic rebound.
The five major trading firms — Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co., Sumitomo Corp. Marubeni Corp. and Itochu Corp. — all beat net-income estimates for the first quarter of Japan’s fiscal year in reports issued this week. Mitsubishi and Mitsui said they will consider additional shareholder returns depending on future results. Itochu said it will buy back up to 0.4% of shares for 25 billion yen.
“We think the strong start in 1Q will raise expectations for a guidance hike and additional shareholder returns at 1H results,” SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. senior analyst Akira Morimoto said in a note released Tuesday after Mitsui reported.
The results should please Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in June raised its stake in the five firms to an average of more than 8.5%. He first invested in the companies in 2020 and traveled to Japan earlier this year to strengthen his ties with the trading houses, known as Sogo Shosha.
The Japanese results are in contrast to energy majors like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Shell Plc, which missed estimates on falling gas prices and weak oil-refining margins. While the trading houses are heavily involved in oil, gas and coal, they have wider portfolios ranging from convenience stores to salmon farming.
Read More: Buffett Boosts Stake in Japan Trading Companies as Shares Surge
Mitsubishi’s consumer industry segment, which includes the Lawson convenience store chain and other businesses, booked record profits in the quarter. The company has been able to build a “strong portfolio,” Chief Financial Officer Yuzo Nouchi said at a press conference on Thursday.
Still, the firms said they weren’t immune to the downturn in commodity prices and a stagnating recovery in consumption in China.
Mitsubishi and Mitsui said a drop in metallurgical coal prices had impacted their natural resource segments. Sumitomo’s earnings were affected by a decline in thermal coal, while Itochu was affected by falling paper pulp prices, both of which they blamed on weak Chinese demand.
–With assistance from Dan Murtaugh.
(Updates throughout, adds earning results from Itochu, Marubeni)
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