As a believer in “continuous evolution,” Mitsui has a tradition of adapting its business model to fit with the changing needs of the times. The company’s ability to reshape itself is particularly crucial now as digital technology disrupts and upends old business models. Indeed, one of the present medium-term management plan’s key initiatives is to deploy the cashflow generated by Mitsui’s existing businesses to build a presence in new growth areas. The four target areas are Mobility, Healthcare, Nutrition & Agriculture, and Retail & Services. Because they each address a major global trend—population growth for Nutrition & Agriculture, or the transformation of the auto industry through electrification and autonomous vehicles for Mobility, to give a couple of examples—they are expected to eventually establish themselves as next-generation profit pillars for Mitsui.
But advancing into new and fast-changing markets demands a particular set of skills more typical of a financial investor than a trading company—the ability to formulate strategic investment theses and identify potential joint venture partners or acquisition targets; the ability to assess the viability of different business models; and the ability to structure financially sound deals. Within Mitsui, that stock of know-how and experience resides in the Corporate Development Business Unit.
To backtrack a little, the Corporate Development Business Unit actually carries out two missions in parallel. On the one hand, it runs its own profit-generating operations in asset management, insurance, leasing, private equity, commodity and derivatives trading, real estate and logistics management. On the other hand, it applies its considerable accumulated management consulting, investment banking, and financial services know-how and networks to all Mitsui’s other business units, thus driving the group’s continuous evolution. The clue is in the name: The Corporate Development Business Unit literally helps Mitsui “develop” as a corporation.