About a year ago Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s company, decided to invest 5% in Itochu, Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Sumitomo, all commercial agents, which put Japan in the crosshairs of mutual fund managers.
In general, in the eyes of Westerners, the culture of Japanese companies has little to do with the Anglo-American model of shareholder capitalism to which a mutual fund manager is accustomed. What did W. Buffett see in these companies, mentioned above, if especially this type of company they distance themselves even further from the westernized vision?
This type of business, commercial agents, has been formed with the evolution of the history of Japan since the 19th century with the zaibatsu and keiretsu systems of corporate loyalty and cross-participation. Between the decades of the 50s and the 80s they acted as intermediaries traveling the world in search of energy, metals and minerals. helping underpin the Japanese economic miracle.
Later they invested in mines and hydrocarbons to increase the boom in raw materials that China led and then switch to something more “common” and they started to buy everything, from small shops to telephone. In the process they accumulated assets faster than they were able to sell, the results make them difficult for a mutual fund manager to handle. Mitsubishi sells everything from coking coal to KFC. Itochu, the most profitable, calls its consumer division the eighth company, which implies that they have run out of names after having to name another seven units.