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FB Roundup: Hyundai, Fast Retailing, Barilla

By James Beech

Next-gen Euisun Chung takes the wheel of Hyundai after 20 years

South Korean billionaire Euisun Chung has succeeded his father Mong-Koo Chung as chairman of Hyundai Motor Group to drive the world's fifth largest automaker into a future of autonomous driving, renewable fuels and flying cars.

Euisun Chung (pictured), 49, the only son of Mong-Koo Chung, was inaugurated unanimously by board members of Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis, the $90 billion group announced this week. Mong-Koo Chung, 82, the eldest surviving son of group founder Chung Ju-yung's eight sons, was inaugurated as honorary chairman. Mong-Koo Chung gave up his seat on the board earlier this year. He had expressed his wish to move on and asked his son to take over, the group said.

Euisun Chung, a MBA graduate from the University of San Francisco and father of two, served something of a 20-year apprenticeship. The heir apparent worked his way through Hyundai’s procurement, sales and business planning divisions from 1999 then became president of the group’s minority-owned company Kia Motors Corporation from 2005 to 2009. Credited with turning around Kia’s fortunes, he was promoted to vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Company from 2009. He became the group’s executive vice chairman in 2018 and the face of the business until his latest elevation.

The next-gen leader said Hyundai’s direction will focus on “customers, humanity, future and social contribution”. The group would develop and acquire technologies and capabilities to overcome market uncertainties, including Covid-19. The group blamed the pandemic for its 36% year-on-year drop in global sales in the second quarter, a net profit year-on-year plummet of 62% to KRW 377.3 billion ($329 million).

Hyundai under Chung unveiled a prototype electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or flying car, for mass production and a partnership with ride-hailing company Uber at the start of 2020.

“Our world-class hydrogen fuel cell technology will be used not only in automobiles, but also in various fields, as an eco-friendly energy solution for the future of humanity,” Chung said.

“We will also realise the future of our imagination through robotics, urban air mobility [flying vehicles], smart city and other innovations. These ground-breaking advancements will offer a higher plane of life experiences for humanity.”

Apparel brand Uniqlo predicts recovery to pre-pandemic profits within a year

Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo saw its global profit slashed in half by the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, but its fiscal 2020 results were better than expected thanks to an early recovery by China.

The chain’s parent company, Fast Retailing, owned by Tadashi Yanai (pictured), said this week it expected to see by August 2021 a rise in revenue, a large increase in profit and a recovery to similar record profits levels achieved in 2019.

Uniqlo International announced its revenue for the financial 2020 fell 17% year-on-year to 843.9 billion yen ($8 billion) and operating profit nosedived 64% to 50.2 billion yen ($477 million). Declines were felt mainly in South Korea and the United States. Nearly all North American stores were closed from mid-March to the end of June. Uniqlo in Europe was also hit hard by Covid-19 with many stores closed temporarily and a huge fall in tourist numbers knocking revenue lower and resulting in a slight operating loss for the full year.

“While Greater China revenue declined and profit contracted sharply, that region recovered at a faster pace from March onwards than we had predicted,” Fast Retailing reported.

Global e-commerce sales increased by 20% year-on-year thanks to Uniqlo’s improved conveying of information on products designed to satisfy stay-at-home demand, in addition to its expansion in the number of markets offering e-commerce operations.

Fast Retailing forecast a decline in revenue through to February 2021 on the assumption the pandemic would continue to heavily impact business in South-East Asia, North America and Europe. “However, in the second half from March through August 2021, we expect all business segments will report a large increase in revenue and a considerable improvement in operating profit, assuming Covid-19 has been brought under control by that point.”

Yanai, 71, the Japanese chairman, president and chief executive of Fast Retailing, founded what became his Tokyo-listed empire in 1984. The 27th-richest person in the world and his family own a 44% stake in the company, giving them a net worth of $28.9 billion, reported Forbes.

Sons Kazumi Yanai, 46, is the global chairman of subsidiary Link Theory, while Koji Yanai, 43, oversees Uniqlo’s global marketing.

‘Pasta king’ Guido Barilla says next five years critical to fix global food systems

The fourth-generation principal of the world’s largest pasta company warns that time is running out to solve issues around the world’s broken food systems, left in tatters by the coronavirus pandemic.

Guido Barilla (pictured), chairman of Barilla Group and the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation, was among the speakers raising the alarm at the Fixing the Business of Food event in New York. The family foundation hosted the event in partnership with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Santa Chiara Lab—University of Siena and the Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment in September.

The foundation said almost 690 million people were hungry while up to two billion were overweight and obese. Despite a steady increase in investments in sustainable development and climate action, only 8% of public climate finance was directed to the agri-food sector. Environmental, social, and corporate governance metrics did not set the principles of value-chain responsibility, or set clear guidance for how responsible companies could and should support sustainability, the family foundation said.

“The next five years are the most important by far because we have to take along with us as many producers, as many suppliers and as many distributors as we can,” Barilla said.

“There is one big risk: that a lot of our colleagues, a lot of other actors in the world of business, feel the danger, but they do not have the courage to really take actions within their company to make these very difficult decisions.

“We are late in the 2030 Agenda, we are losing time in completing the sustainability goals and to really rationalise the dangers and lower the dangers on climate change and on sustainability issues. It’s unaffordable. We need to make a call to action.”

Nicknamed the “pasta king”, eldest son Guido, 62, has served as chairman of the 143-year-old Italian family business since the death of his father Pietro in 1993. Guido’s brothers Luca, 60, and Paolo, 59, are deputy chairmen, but the siblings reputedly run the family business as equals. The brothers and their sister Emanuela, a company director, equally split 85% ownership of the group.

The family have grown their €3.627 billion ($4.2 billion) business through a series of international acquisitions: Turkish pasta producer Filiz in 1994, Greek pasta producer Misko in 1999, Swedish crispbread producer Wasa also in 1999, Mixan pasta brands Yemina and Vesta in 2002 and Harry’s, the French bread and bakery products brand, in 2002. Barilla controls about 28% of the American pasta market.

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