May 27, 2010,08:47 +0900(JST) Visiting Group Companies in Europe and South America – SEBN

On the way to the IWCC Joint Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, I stopped by our group companies in Europe and South America. It was the first time for me to visit them in years. As the head of the company I took the initiative in acting upon the principle of the three "actuals." These are examining actual sites, actual products and actual situations.

Flying from Osaka, I stopped over in Paris before arriving in Hannover, Germany. It took me a whole day. The first company I paid a visit was Sumitomo Electric Bordnetze GmbH. (SEBN) in Wolfsburg, Germany.

In March 2006 our company acquired SEBN, which manufactures and sells wire harnesses for automobiles. The company produces all the wire harnesses used in Golf and Polo, serving Volkswagen as a main supplier. With sales of 5 million euros and 13000 employees, SEBN operates in 15 countries including Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, and China, and is now establishing a new factory in Tunisia.

I have a special place in my heart for SEBN. This is partly because the acquisition of SEBN was the first and most important mission for me after assuming the presidency of Sumitomo Electric. Although the Lehman shock in 2008 dealt a heavy blow to the European automobile market and drove us to restructure some production bases, the year 2009 showed some signs of recovery. This year, there have been already some concerning factors such as the financial issues of South European countries. Yet, I am highly expecting SEBN’s great leap into the market.

At the company, I received reports from the sales, manufacturing, and development representatives about current situations. This helped deepen my understanding about current circumstances and challenges we had to address. That evening, I had a pleasant and enjoyable time over traditional German cuisine of beers and sausages. I was accompanied by Mr. Bogner, director in charge of R&D; Mr. Kloepffer, director in charge of finance, Mr. Winnen, director in charge of manufacturing, and other local executives as well as our overseas representatives.

After dinner with SEBN staff members

Having an informal face-to-face communication at the table is an important way of building good rapport and trust toward a goal. This is especially true if our language, culture, value and background are different.

Although the European automotive market is suffering from severe backdrop triggered by the current economic crisis, we are determined to utilize the technical and intellectual capital from Japan and Europe, so as to progress further.

May 19, 2010,15:41 +0900(JST) International Wrought Copper Council in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC) Joint Meeting, an annual conference among copper producers, smelters and processors, was held at the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Towers in Rio de Janeiro from May 9 through to 13. This time again, I attended the meeting as a presenter.

At the Sheraton Rio Hotel & TowersThe meeting had fewer attendants this year due to unfavorable economic circumstances symbolized by the prolonged global disturbance since 2008 and Greece’s economic downturn. There were, however, some 200 managers from 62 companies and senior officials from the Brazilian government. Following a government report on the Brazil’s current economic situations, meaningful sessions were conducted mixed with occasional astute questions. The sessions included a review of London Metal Exchange’s operation as well as the unstable copper price and other issues that copper producers and processors had to deal with.

About 19 million tons of copper is consumed every year in the globe. Similarly in other commodities, China has rapidly increased its copper consumption up to 4-5 million tons. Furthermore, influx of speculative capital into the copper market has triggered the soaring or unstable copper price. As a result, uncertainty and instability remain in the industry, giving copper producers a hard time.

During the sessions, I also gave a talk as an electric wire manufacturer. I explained, with some examples, the importance of developing alternative materials to copper by the traditional means of leveraging our ingenuity in the long run.

A scene during my presentationIn the field of data transmission, optical fiber was developed in previous decades to increase transmission capacity and speed, and it has replaced copper wire already. Facing the serious and impending global warming, we are now in need of new technology that contributes to energy saving, reduction of CO2 emissions and manufacture of lightweight vehicles. With this in mind, the development of high temperature superconducting materials and aluminum wire has been undertaken. (Nano carbon material and carbon film will also be included in the future.)

I know that these topics are not always pleasant for copper manufacturers. However, there are immediate social challenges that can’t be overcome with copper alone (progressed information society, reduction of CO2 emissions, resource saving, and so on). Therefore, I believe that my presentation made some sense to the audience.

We will continue to pay special attention to the environment and energy field as our company policy states. This international conference made me fully aware that it was a high time for the electric wire industry, which has long been relied on copper, to ponder over the way of realizing its future growth.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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