President, Nippon Steel Corporation
Born: November 2, 1940, in Japan.
Education: Tokyo University, BS, 1963.
Career: Fuji Iron & Steel, 1963–1970; Nippon Steel Corporation, 1970–2000; 2000–2003, vice president; 2003–, president.
Address: Nippon Steel Corporation, 6-3 Otemachi 2-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8071, Japan; http://www.nsc.co.jp/shinnihon_english.
■ Akio Mimura joined Fuji Iron & Steel after graduating from Tokyo University in 1963 and remained with the company following its 1970 merger with Yawata Steel, which resulted in the formation of Nippon Steel Corporation. Mimura had been involved in marketing prior to being named president in early 2003. His appointment continued a company practice of rotating the top spot between executives from Nippon's two predecessor firms; Akira Chihaya, who served as president from 1998 to 2003, had begun his career at Yawata. The change in management came after Nippon's agreement to form an alliance with Sumitomo Metal Industries and Kobe Steel; the change also followed Mimura's successful guidance of the company through negotiations with the auto industry on steel-price increases.
As president Mimura was responsible for implementing a three-year plan to improve profitability, which had been threatened by increases in the costs of materials and by protectionist tariffs imposed by other countries, including the United States. In the summer of 2003 Mimura went to New York City, becoming the company's first chief executive to visit overseas investors. His career followed a traditional Japanese path: he offered lifelong service to a single corporation and bore a public persona that was strictly limited to his corporate role—except for the disclosure of an enthusiasm for golf, which was also typical of Japanese executives.
In June 2003 Akio Mimura was named chairman of the Japan Iron & Steel Federation, the powerful industry organization representing 136 member companies and trade associations. This post was traditionally held by the president of the country's largest steel producer, which at the time was Nippon Steel; by January 2004, however, Nippon's market capitalization had dropped to second place behind JFE Holdings. JFE was created in 2003 through a merger between Kawasaki Steel Corporation and NKK Corporation. Nippon's stock price was further depressed in September 2003 by a gas explosion at its Nagoya plant.
Steel, while playing a central role, had not been Nippon's sole focus for over 20 years. In order to reduce its dependence on a single industry, the company diversified in the 1980s, forming a New Materials unit in 1984, to make silicon wafers, and an Electronics division in 1986. At that time Nippon also entered joint ventures with IBM Japan, Hitachi, and C. Itch, forging its way into the electronics and telecommunications markets. A semiconductor division was added in 1993 but was sold in 1999. As of 2004 Nippon Steel's peripheral operations included engineering, construction, chemicals, nonferrous metals, ceramics, electronics, information and communications, and urban development.
Nippon's first joint venture in China—Guangzhou Pacific Tinplate—was launched in 1997. In July 2003 Nippon Steel signed an agreement with China's largest steelmaker, Shanghai Baoshan Iron and Steel Company, to manufacture steel sheeting for automobiles. Further, a new factory was scheduled to open in Shanghai in 2005. The expanding Chinese economy provided a rapidly growing market for Japanese steel, and by late 2003 more than 20 percent of Japanese steel exports went directly to China. In fiscal 2004 Nippon Steel had its first profitable year since 2001, which was largely attributed to demand from China; however, steep increases in the costs of raw materials made continued growth in profits unlikely.
See also entry on Nippon Steel Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .
"Mimura to Succeed Chihaya as Nippon Steel President," Southeast Asia Iron & Steel Institute Newsletter , January 22, 2003, http://www.seaisi.org/news_detail.asp?ID=1141&y=Year&m=Month .
"Nippon Steel Recasts Strategies," Nikkei Weekly , January 12, 2004.
"Nippon Steel to Name Vice Pres. Mimura as New President," Nikkei Report, January 22, 2003.
—Sandra M. Larkin