Business

Woodford to visit Japan, seeks new Olympus board

December 10, 2011

TOKYO, Dec 10 – Olympus Corp’s ousted CEO, Michael Woodford, will travel to Japan on Tuesday to meet potential candidates for a new team in his battle to take back management control of the camera maker after a US$1.7 billion (RM5.35 billion) accounting fraud.

Woodford (picture) will also be trying to win shareholder and investor support for his team when the board comes up for election at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, possibly in February.

He will arrive in Japan on Tuesday evening and leave on Friday morning, an assistant in Tokyo said in an e-mail.

The visit comes as Olympus prepares to issue its earnings before a deadline Wednesday in order to avoid being delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Even if it does meet the deadline, the 92-year-old maker of endoscopes and cameras could still be dumped from the exchange if its accounting misstatements were large enough.

The board, slammed in an independent report on the accounting scandal roiling the company, has said it plans to stay in place for the time being.

Nearly all the current directors served during Olympus’s 13-year cover-up of investment losses.

Olympus President Shuichi Takayama said on Wednesday that the earliest an extraordinary meeting to pick the new board could be held was late-February.

Takayama, who took over after the scandal broke in October, said the management wouldn’t resign before the meeting and would pick its own slate of candidates.

PROSECUTORS TO RAID

Japanese prosecutors, jointly with police and securities watchdog, have decided to raid homes of potential suspects and offices linked to the Olympus accounting scandal next week, media reported today.

The prosecutors’ investigation is expected to cover a total of more than 10 locations, including the main office of the camera maker, Jiji news agency said.

Prosecutors are also planning to conduct hearing of former president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who told the independent investment panel set up by Olympus last month that he had only learned about the scandal recently, Jiji said.

Olympus has seen its existence threatened by the scandal, in which senior executives cooked the books in a US$1.7 billion scheme to hide investment losses. Olympus shares have lost about half their value since Woodford blew the whistle on the accounting problems.

The independent panel made up of six legal and accounting experts, described the management as rotten to the core.

In order to remove them, Woodford will need the support of most shareholders, including Japanese stock holders, who have yet to voice support for the former president. – Reuters

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