Play MITSY for Me

Mitsui (Nasdaq: MITSY  ) just released its results for fiscal 2006, and it was a great year. You might know the company as a major provider and patent holder in the blank-CD media market, but there's much more to Mitsui than that.

The recordable-CD business is merely one of 71 subsidiaries under Mitsui's chemicals operations. And the chemical segment as a whole contributes only about 6% of the company's annual revenue. It's safe to say that blank media is not the main business here, not by a long shot.

Real fans of this company are more interested in mining, metallurgy, and energy developments. Mitsui runs oil fields and iron mines around the world, complemented by industrial machinery, lifestyle brands, and consumer products and services. The up-and-coming nanotechnology operations hold promise for the future, but today this machine is built from iron and steel.

With mining and steel refining operations in places like Chile, Russia, and the Netherlands, and oil fields in Russia and Australia, Mitsui rode higher steel and oil prices to a stellar full-year performance. Net margins may be low, but Mitsui makes up for that in massive volume. Revenues increased 17.8% over 2005, and net income was up 67% over the same period. Using yesterday's exchange rate, revenues were approximately $36 billion, and net income was about $1.8 billion, or $1.04 of earnings per diluted share.

That's for the underlying stock, of course -- MITSY is an ADR, where each share of the Nasdaq-traded security represents 20 issues on the Nikkei market. So $1.04 per Japanese share is $20.80 for your American holding. The lone analyst following Mitsui over here expected earnings to stop at $18.97, which was low by about 10%.

A company as diverse as Mitsui -- geographically as well as by lines of business -- depends more on a healthy global economy than on any particular location or operation. In that regard, Mitsui resembles General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) or Tyco (NYSE: TYC  ) among the familiar American faces, or fellow Far Eastern conglomerates like Hitachi (NYSE: HIT  ) .

But Mitsui isn't just big. It's a well-run company with a clearly defined vision for the future. Management operates by a two-year plan that seeks to position the company for success in the next two-year period. It's a refreshing change from the quarter-to-quarter shortsightedness that can sometimes overcome otherwise excellent companies.

And the business is constantly in development. Underperforming subsidiaries are cut loose or spun off, and income is reinvested into acquisitions and venture capital for the stars of the next generation, save for a 1% dividend yield. The current count of subsidiaries is 582, down from over 650 last year.

Maybe you should consider adding Mitsui to your repertoire. I can certainly think of worse songs to sing.

For related Foolishness:

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Fool contributorAnders Bylunddoesn't hold any position in the companies mentioned, but he uses the occasional Mitsui CD-R. He doesn't know the words to "Misty."


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