According to The Gas Review, the main business of Iwatani’s local subsidiary in South Korea is expanding.

In fiscal 2018, Iwatani Korea worked hard to expand sales of chlorine trifluoride (CIF3), functional films for smartphones and other industrial gases and materials.

Now with Japanese-South Korea relations in a frightfully poor state, it has become important to gain the trust of users and respond to its needs. The Gas Review interviewed Toshinori Maeda, President of Iwatani Korea.

Founded 22 years ago, Iwatani Korea started as a liaison office and then changed to Soul Branch before becoming a local subsidiary in 1997. When it was founded, the company mainly procured petrochemical products, stainless steel and iron made in South Korea, and exported them for sale in Japan. But from the middle of the 2000s, explosive growth in the electronics industry in South Korea enabled them to become a trading company who also imported gases and other materials for the same industries, expanding its business range.

Iwatani Korea handles many of the products of the product divisions of Iwatani, but particularly industrial gases and materials are its main product lines. For industrial gases, they supply CIF3, a cleaning gas for semiconductor devices, and helium mainly to electronics manufacturers. Sales from industrial gas business accounts for around 50% of overall company sales, and materials products have grown to a scale that rivals its industrial gas business.

The overseas business that they have undertaken since being founded is now expanding sales routes to China, exporting South Korean-made aluminium coils and other products. In South Korea, the company sells electronic components, but the materials division has fared the best in these last few years. Looking back at business last year, Maeda said, “We worked to expand sales of CIF3 as well, but in 2018, the usage of our functional films for smartphones by a major manufacturer was outstanding.”

According to Iwatani Korea, sales for fiscal 2018 totalled around ¥3.5bn ($32.2m). Compared with sales for recent years, that’s an increase of ¥1bn ($921,000) over two years. The driving force behind that growth was expanded sales in two items: CIF3 and functional films for smartphones.

Key tight cooperation with South Korean users

Maeda pointed out that there is no telling what will happen. Japanese-South Korean relations are deteriorating. Maeda said, “For products that we procure from Japan, there is currently no influence from regulation reviews. However, it is true that users are becoming uneasy. We want to talk with users to suitably explain the situation and put them at ease as we work to ensure stable supply.”

In terms of materials business, Maeda said, “For display devices, such as organic Els and micro LEDs, the technical level of products will be improved as we move forward. During that span, we must present new proposals. It is important here too to talk carefully with users so that we can meet their needs.”

You could say Iwatani Korea’s policy is to take even greater advantage of its strength as a local subsidiary located close to its users.