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What Is Keiretsu? 系列 Keiretsu is a Japanese term referring to a business network made up of different companies, including manufacturers, supply chain partners, distributors, and occasionally financiers. They work together, have close relationships, and sometimes take small equity stakes in each other, all the while remaining operationally independent. Translated literally, keiretsu means “headless combine. Keiretsus rose to prominence after World War II and the destruction of the Japanese zaibatsu. A horizontal keiretsu is an alliance of different companies, led by a bank that provides them with finance.