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Trading house Marubeni Corp. said Friday that its group net profit for the first half of fiscal 2006 jumped 72 percent year-on-year to 65.6 billion yen, led by robust earnings in its energy business and the yen’s depreciation against other currencies.

Marubeni’s net profit during the April-September period was a record high for the third consecutive year.

Operating profit in the fiscal first half to Sept. 30 surged 39 percent from the previous year to 90.8 billion yen, while sales rose 16.7 percent to 4.68 trillion yen.

The yen’s weakness helped elevate Marubeni’s sales by 130 billion yen.

“For the full year, we are sure to achieve record-high profits for the fourth straight year,” Marubeni President Nobuo Katsumata said at a news conference in Tokyo.

The trading house revised its earnings projection upward to 115 billion yen in net profit for the full year from 100 billion yen as forecast in April.

Trading companies are enjoying robust earnings from their energy businesses thanks to rising prices for energy resources, but industry watchers warn of the risks for depending too much on this segment.

Marubeni officials said the firm is trying to diversify its business portfolio. Profits from its energy and natural resources sector in the April-September period accounted for about 40 percent of the firm’s net profit, down from 58 percent in the same period of the previous year, they said.

As for the rehabilitation of Daiei Inc., Katsumata stressed that the partnership with Aeon Co., the nation’s largest supermarket chain, is sure to speed up Daiei’s turnaround.

Marubeni is currently the largest shareholder of Daiei, with a 44.6 percent stake after buying 33.6 percent from the government-run Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan for 69.8 billion yen in August.

Before becoming Daiei’s top shareholder, Marubeni spent 18.6 billion yen to buy a 10 percent stake in Daiei when the firm was picked in March 2005 by IRCJ to become one of the two sponsors to help Daiei rebuild.

Marubeni plans to sell a 15 percent stake in Daiei to Aeon while Daiei is expected to sell a 20 percent stake in Daiei’s subsidiary supermarket chain Maruetsu Inc. to Aeon.

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