ITOCHU Corporation (ITOCF) FYE 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

ITOCHU Corporation (OTCPK:ITOCF) FYE 2023 Earnings Conference Call May 11, 2023 ET

Company Participants

Keita Ishii – President and Chief Operating Officer

Conference Call Participants

Keita Ishii

Hello, everyone. I am Keita Ishii, President and COO of ITOCHU Corporation. Thank you very much for joining us today. Let me explain FYE 2023 Financial Results and FYE 2024 Management Plan.

Please refer to the FYE ’23 business results materials, which were announced on May 9.

Page 2 shows the summary of financial results for FYE ’23. Consolidated net profit was ¥800.5 billion. Due to the absence of the extraordinary gains booked in the last fiscal year, net profit decreased. But it was the second best result following the last year’s record high ¥820.3 billion, exceeding ¥800 billion level, two years in a row.

Page 3 is the profit attributable to Itochu by segment. The record high profits were recorded in three companies including Machinery, Metals & Minerals, and Energy & Chemicals.

In Machinery, auto-related the business recovered from the production restriction due to the semiconductor shortage with tight supply demand balance and margin expansion. North American construction machinery related business performed well with higher margin mainly in small construction machinery. Equity pickup from Hitachi Construction Machinery, which is under equity method from the second half, contributed.

With higher electricity prices, North American electric power business and domestic and overseas operating companies performed well. The record high profit above ¥100 billion yen was achieved for the first time.

Metals & Minerals also renewed the record high profit. In addition to the rising coal prices and weaker yen, Marubeni-Itochu Steel showed strength with robust North American business.

Energy & Chemicals profit was also record high supported by solid chemicals operating companies. Rising market prices led to major improvements of energy trading. Basic chemicals and electricity trading performed well.

With the absence of extraordinary gains recorded last fiscal year, profits of General Products & Realty and The 8th were down. However, on the core profit basis, there were highest ever. In General products & Realty, the real estate business and pulp business were strong. North American construction materials business maintained solid earnings despite concerns for slowdown.

As for The 8th, although business environment was tough, with rising electricity cost pushing up the store operation cost, FamilyMart customer traffic and spend per customer grew and daily sales per shop increased, thanks to the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions, and core profit increased.

Core profits in Food and ICT & Financial business decreased. In Food, Dole sales declined due to rising ocean freight and misleading price policy under inflation. HyLife earnings suffered due to the higher feed prices and weaker yen, leading to the decreased export to Japan. In addition to lower core profits, extraordinary losses were also booked.

In ICT & Financial business, monetary policy and stagnant stock market led to expanded remeasurement losses for fund held investments at the end of fiscal year. Equity pickup decreased due to the sale of the mobile-phone related business. With the absence of extraordinary gains of the last year fiscal year profit declined.

Page 4 shows the core profit result of FYE 2023. After excluding the extraordinary gains and losses, core profit, which shows the actual earning power increased by ¥97.5 billion year-on-year to about ¥787.5 billion, greatly updating the record high number two years in a row.

Both core profits of Resource and Non-Resource were the highest ever. Main reasons are as follows. In Resources, there was a major positive ForEx impact in relation to the dividend from overseas and equity pickup. There was some ForEx impact on Non-Resource profit as well. But major drivers, as I mentioned before were trading in Energy & Chemicals, which captured rising market prices and solid growth of Machinery profit including the auto-related and North American construction machinery related businesses steadily accumulating profits.

Page 6 shows cash flows. With strong operating revenues of Metals & Minerals, The 8th, the Energy & Chemicals and General Products & Realty, operating cash flow reached historic ¥938.1 billion. Core operating cash flow was ¥871 billion, also the record high. As for the cash flow from investing activities, with active investments for growth to strengthen the future earning base through Hitachi Construction Machinery and enhancements of the reduced iron materials and North American construction materials and Textile brand acquisition, net cash out of ¥393 billion was recorded.

Page 7 shows financial position. Total shareholder’s equity reached a record high ¥4.8 trillion at the end of fiscal year, due to the accumulation of profits and weaker yen. On the other hand, net DER was 0.5 times greatly exceeding our Brand-new Deal Plan 2023 target, we evaluate the financial position was further improved.

Page 8 shows credit ratings. In March, we received a long term rating of A2 from Moody’s, an upgrade A3. Although we were unable to obtain A rating for a long time, since our upgrade to A3 in 2017, we have steadily built up a good track record.

In addition to our strong resistance to economic volatility and well diversified strong earnings base, we believe our unwavering financial discipline focusing on the balance of three factors including growth, investment, shareholder return and control of the interest bearing debt was highly evaluated. Since 2019, ITOCHU was the first company to receive an upgrade from Moody’s among Japanese A-rated companies.

Now, let me talk about FYE 2024 Management Plan. I will skip Page 10 which shows FYE 2023 general review. Please see Page 11 for Qualitative Targets. In order to improve working environment supporting earning space, morning flex-time structure, which is the evolution of the morning focus working system that helped to advance women, was established in addition to the work-from-home system.

We are enhancing the employee support, which can contribute to the productivity and group wide cyber security measures, which are needed in digital society. Another qualitative achievement was to receive the best scores in all Japanese industries in an ESG evaluation of Japanese companies by world renowned FTSE in UK.

Next, Page 12 shows Quantitative Targets for FYE 2024. Consolidated net profit target is ¥780 billion, down ¥20 billion from ¥800.5 billion year-on-year. This includes ¥50 billion loss buffer. There are no particular concerns but because of mounting uncertainties, we set this buffer conservatively in order to securely achieve ¥780 billion consolidated net profit and to maintain our commitment to our shareholders, even when the business environment changes.

Looking at each company for Dole and HyLife in Food, which suffered major losses in the previous fiscal year, top priority is to recover to the cruising speed. High costs of raw materials and logistics are coming down and impairment loss was booked in the first half. And we are rebuilding for recovery and expecting a turnaround.

In ICT & Financial business, fund performance is expected to recover with improving equity market mainly in North America and profits of CTC’s SI business will grow with normalization of the semiconductor shortage. And HOKEN NO MADOGUCHI profit will also grow with traffic recovery and enhanced sales strategy to attract customers.

In Textile, as retail market recovers with growing consumption of individuals such as inbound tourists, profits of sports business including DESCENTE and DOME and shoes such as Converse, are expected to increase. In The 8th, we expect higher FamilyMart profit with the recovery of customer traffic, enhanced products and through focus on the management and we will be supporting them strongly.

Lower profit is forecast for Energy & Chemicals with decreasing profit from upstream interest due to the declining oil prices and the absence of strong energy trading of the year before.

Also in Metals & Minerals, declining natural resources prices and the absence of positive weaker yen impact will lead to the lower profit. Decreased profit of Marubeni-Itochu Steel, from the last year is factored in. With reduced iron materials in Canada and profit of the hard coking coal in Australia and the United States and other new investments, slightly lower year-on-year profit is forecast.

In General Products & Realty, pulp market weakened and European tyre business will expand. Despite the absence of the extraordinary gains in North American construction material business, slightly lower profit is forecast.

In Machinery, Tokyo Century which book the major impairment loss concerning the aircraft leasing in first half, will recover. Hitachi Construction Machinery which continues to be strong in North America, and will contribute a full year. And higher profit is forecast with the robust North American electricity business. However, the estimates for the auto-related business which was strong last year is conservative. Overall flat number is expected.

On Page 13, four bars in top right show FYE ’24 targets. As I mentioned, ¥780 billion target includes ¥50 billion loss buffer. If the buffer is not used, the number will be ¥830 billion. And this includes ¥30 billion extraordinary gain, therefore ¥800 billion excluding that ¥30 billion extraordinary gain will be our earning power of FYE ’24.

Now Page 14 is the FYE ’24 shareholder return policy. We will increase the dividend from ¥140 per share in FYE ’23 by ¥20 to ¥160 per share achieving the Brand-new Deal 2023 commitment to increase the dividend continuously and 30% payout ratio. We would actively and continuously execute share buybacks as appropriate in consideration of the cash allocation situation and we will realize 33% or higher total payout ratio achieved in FYE ’23.

So far explained FYE 2023 financial results and FYE 2024 plan.

Last year, the Russian aggression in Ukraine caused major disruptions of supply chain leading to resource panic. As Western countries raised policy rates to control inflation, yen weakened significantly for the first time in about 32 years. We struggled to counter unexpected situation which was totally different from our expectations. Situation has not yet improved this fiscal year, and we believe risks remain unchanged, and uncertainty is mounting more than ever.

Although tough business environment continues during FYE ’24, which is the final year of the Brand-new Deal 2023, we will first make sure to achieve a ¥780 billion consolidated net profit and aim to exceed ¥800 billion three years in a row and at the same time, we will make steady preparations for further growth. We would utilize our ability to discern good investment opportunities and invest in projects which will contribute to our growth.

Under uncertain business environment, we will once again focus on the frontline to capture signs of changes and take proactive measures to avoid unnecessary losses and take quick actions by once again thoroughly focusing on prevent out of “earn, cut, and prevent”.

In addition to financial growth, we will work on enhancing non-financial capital in order to sustainably maintain and expand corporate value toward the future.

That concludes my presentation. Thank you for your attention.

Question-and-Answer Session

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