Outlook: Full disclosure is the only option for Olympus

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The Independent Online

The story of unusual payments surrounding acquisitions by the camera maker Olympus gets curiouser and curiouser. On Tuesday, the Japanese firm's chairman, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, denied one detail of his sacked chief executive's allegations, disputing the size of the payment to a mysterious "adviser" whose identity can no longer be traced. Yesterday, the company gently corrected its patriarch, and investors were left asking: what on earth is going on?

Whether the payment was 15 per cent of the size of the deal to buy the UK's Gyrus, as Mr Kikukawa claimed, or 36 per cent, as the ousted Michael Woodford alleged and the company now concedes, the size is startling, given typical advisory fees would be about 1 per cent.

Olympus says it did proper due diligence on the Gyrus deal and disputes Mr Woodford's characterisation of his sacking as being connected with his raising of these issues, but there is clearly an urgent need to get to the bottom of these matters. Shareholders have seen the value of their investment halve.

Maybe a spot of legal or corporate governance pressure from abroad will help. It would not be surprising if shareholders based in the US, where Olympus has significant operations, seek redress in the courts there, or even push the Department of Justice to examine if there is a case to be brought under the country's tough Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Olympus shareholders deserve nothing less than full disclosure.

In retrospect, the news that Apple had sold 4 million iPhone 4S smartphones in the three days since its launch should have been a clue.

The orgy of buying reflected not spontaneous consumer lust, but rather pent-up demand from people who (we now know) had put off buying an iPhone until the newer version hit the shelves.

And so Apple's quarterly results, for the period ending just before the iPhone 4S launch, disappointed Wall Street, one of only a handful of occasions where this has been the case.

Analysts who had thought to revise up their sales forecasts in the light of the iPhone 4S launch have had to revise them right back down again, but these are small issues in the grand scheme of things. Apple is still producing the most desirable phone on the planet and, as its quarterly figures showed yet again, the halo effect for other Apple products is not dimming. On the contrary, the company sold a Macintosh computer every two seconds in the last quarter, with revenues from this division up 26 per cent on the same period last year.

There will be bumps along the road as Apple navigates the post-Steve Jobs era. These results are not one of them.