Olympus investors demand review
Chief executive's removal after only two weeks prompts questions over controversial transactions
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 21 October 2011
Olympus's second-largest shareholder yesterday demanded answers to the issues raised by its ousted chief executive over four takeovers and joined calls for an independent investigation.
Southeastern Asset Management, which has a holding of close to 5 per cent in Olympus, followed two other major shareholders, Nippon Life and Harris Associates, in heaping pressure on the board.
It sent a letter in the morning to the board, the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Japanese regulator with an "extensive list of questions". Josh Shores, the senior analyst and principal at Southeastern, said: "We think it is incumbent on the board to provide real assurances, very quickly."
Southeastern wants an independent committee established, which could then bring in auditors to investigate the controversial transactions. It wants a report by 16 November, Mr Shores said. "If the board can answer these questions satisfactorily, that's fine," he said. "If they can't, or won't, the direction taken may be different."
Southeastern has invested in Japan since the late 1990s and has held Olympus stock since 2004. As a long-term investor it has become concerned by the events of the past week with the firing of Mr Woodford over what the board called a culture clash.
The former head, who was removed just two weeks after he was appointed as the company's first foreign chief executive, believes he was ousted after raising serious corporate governance issues at the group.
"Michael Woodford's appointment as president and then chief executive was a huge step forward for the company, at the time we said how pleased we were. The fact he has been forced out is a big step back," Mr Shores said. "We are very disappointed now."
Harris Associates has also written to Olympus in the wake of the "massive destruction of stakeholder value". The shares have tumbled by almost half since Mr Woodford was dismissed on Friday. Harris joined Southeastern in demanding an independent investigation, saying the board should be pushing to find out the truth. "It's all stakeholders, not just shareholders, but employees and those that do business with Olympus that deserve answers," the investor said.
One Japanese investor also broke ranks. Nippon Life, which holds an 8.2 per cent stake, publicly called for action over the corporate governance issue. Officials at the Tokyo market also revealed they had pushed Olympus to release more information related to its takeover of Gyrus. The contentious deal saw Olympus pay $687m (£435m) in advisory fees, more than a third of the total. Normally financial advisers receive about 1 per cent of any deal.
This comes as Mr Woodford took more documents to the Serious Fraud Office in the UK after presenting an initial dossier on Monday.
He also said he was to go to Scotland Yard to talk about the need for police protection. He told The Independent this week he was "increasingly fearful" for his safety after publicly revealing his concerns over governance.
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
iJobs Money & Business
£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...