“[The Grohe deal] was really worth the price. It’s like buying Mercedes-Benz or BMW.” Lixil Group CEO Yoshiaki Fujimori says he is eager to build global recognition for Lixil, now that the company has two big international brands under its belt – Germany’s Grohe and American Standard

Updated September 30, 2013, 6:44 a.m. ET

Lixil Seeks Greater Brand Recognition

CEO Fujimori Says M&A Is Essential to Boosting Overseas Revenue



Lixil Group Chief Executive Yoshiaki Fujimori, pictured on Sept. 26 in Tokyo, says he is eager to build global recognition for Lixil, now that the company has two big international brands under its belt.

TOKYO—Largely existing within the confines of Japan’s housing and building materials industry, Lixil Group Corp. 5938.TO -1.61% has been gearing up for a major expansion abroad over the past few years. Now that it has two big international brands under its belt, American Standard and Grohe, Lixil’s chief executive said he hopes to build up recognition of his company’s own brand globally, while maintaining the wide level of awareness that the other brands already possess. “I want Lixil to gain global recognition as a corporate brand,” Yoshiaki Fujimori said in an interview following his company’s deal to buy Germany’s Grohe Group for $4.13 billion. “[The Grohe deal] was really worth the price,” he said. “It’s like buying Mercedes-Benz or BMW.”Mr. Fujimori said Grohe’s strong brand recognition would attract customers in relatively untapped emerging markets such as Latin America. Grohe’s operations in China through its subsidiary, called Joyou, will also give Lixil additional sales channels all across mainland China, he said.

Lixil—which is best known in Japan as a maker of aluminum-sash windows, toilets and plumbing fixtures—may be on the lookout for a potential deal with a specialty window sash company, Mr. Fujimori said.

“There aren’t any big, brand-name window sash companies so we will continue considering buying in that area,” he said, adding his firm is trying to acquire an Indian sash maker.

Lixil, whose name was created from a combination of the first syllables of “Living” and “Life,” was founded through the merger of two long-running firms, Tostem Corp. and Inax Corp. When the two companies merged in 2001, the new entity was first called Tostem Inax Holdings Corp. and later changed its name to JS Group. After merging with several companies, it changed its name to Lixil Group last year.

Tostem was founded in 1923 as a supplier of building materials and services while Inax was established in 1924 as a manufacturer of tiles, building materials and sanitary fixtures.

Mr. Fujimori, previously a senior executive at General Electric Co., took the company’s helm in 2011 to help lead the company’s ambitious plan to boost its overseas net sales to ¥1 trillion ($10.2 billion) through acquisitions.

“I worked for GE for 25 years and the company was dealing with M&As on almost a daily basis,” Mr. Fujimori, who also served as president and chief executive for various GE subsidiaries, including its Japan unit. “I think learning from my experience of integrating businesses and dealing with global employees would be helpful,” Mr. Fujimori said.

In August 2011, Lixil agreed to buy Italian construction-engineering group Permasteelisa SpA, which designs and installs custom curtain walls, partitions and doors, for about €575 million. Mr. Fujimori said the company’s acquisitions in recent years would help more than double its current overseas sales of ¥200 billion within the next fiscal year. He also projected that the company’s long term goal of boosting net overseas sales to ¥1 trillion yen is achievable “in four to five years without any major acquisitions.”

Asked if Japanese high-tech toilets will ever gain popularity in Europe and the U.S., Mr. Fujimori said he is considering selling products aimed at a western audience.

Mr. Fujimori said he would encourage his global employees to use his company’s INAX toilets and help them design them.

“If [our global employees] are content, our toilets will surely sell world-wide,” he said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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