Let me begin by expressing my gratitude for your continued support of IBIDEN CO., LTD. and the IBIDEN Group.
The global economy of the last year moved to a recovery trend, led by the buoyant U.S. economy. Nevertheless, there were concerns about an economic slowdown in China and other emerging countries, and a sharp decline in crude oil prices and geopolitical risks added to uncertainty. Reflecting increasing capital expenditure and recovery in the labor market, consumer spending was healthy in Japan, resulting in moderate recovery in the overall economy.
In the semiconductor/electronic components industry, smartphones continued to enjoy a high rate of growth. However, the main growth driver shifted to lower-end products, especially in emerging nations, while Chinese manufacturers boosted their presence in the market, intensifying competition among suppliers. In the PC market, sales remained below year-on-year levels, despite support of demands from corporate users for replacing older PCs. Accordingly, the Electronics Operation continued to face an intensely challenging business environment.
Automotive sales remained brisk around the world, as the European market recovered, and supported by buoyant sales in the North American and Asian markets.
In this environment, the IBIDEN Group devoted intensively its management resources to boost sales in the growing smartphone market. In January 2015, we established the Electronics Operation by integrating package substrate operation for PC, small-sized thin substrate operation for smartphones and tablet-type devices and printed wiring board operation for smartphones and tablet-type devices, to combine technologies and share manufacturing facilities. Under company-wide objective seeking to strengthen the competitiveness of each business, we promoted global improvement activities at each of our bases to enhance our earnings base. As a result, we succeeded in recording increases in sales and operating income over the previous fiscal year.
As our outlook for market in fiscal year 2016, in the electronics operation, we prospect the slow growth of smartphones and tablet-type devices and the continued decline of the PC market. To cope with the market change, we will even more strive for new customers acquisition. In the Ceramics Operation, we will focus on starting operations at IBIDEN Mexico S.A. de C.V., a new production base for diesel particulate filters (DPFs) for large vehicles.
In line with our medium-term management plan, we will direct our efforts to bolster our competitive advantages.
We thank you for your continued support and understanding of the Group.
President & CEO