Investor relations officials at Mitsubishi and Marubeni said the companies are trying to expand their shareholder base. Mitsubishi conducted a 3-for-1 stock split effective Jan. 1 to lower its share price and attract more retail investors. Buybacks have helped make Itochu the biggest holder of its own shares.

Mitsui said it was making a general effort to broaden its shareholder base, irrespective of any future sale of stock by Buffett. It is looking to attract investors seeking growth and has been highlighting segments with potential for this, such as health care and new energy, according to Hideaki Konishi, general manager of the company’s investor relations division. 

The companies’ earnings potential is ultimately the best protection against the negative impact from Berkshire unwinding its holdings, according to Hideaki Kuribara, senior analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute who has been covering trading companies for nearly 18 years.

“The profit structure at the companies is the best they have ever had,” said Kuribara. Expansion beyond commodities and in decarbonization, coupled with improved management will shore up support if Buffett ever decides to leave. “If Buffett sells, some investors will follow suit, but fundamentals such as earnings are more important.” 

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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