Olympus put on watch for delisting

A customer looks at the Olympus booth at a camera shop in Tokyo on November 10.

Story highlights

  • Olympus has been put on watch for a possible delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange
  • This is due to a scandal involving more than $1bn in acquisition-related payments
  • Olympus must produce its earnings report by December 14 or face an automatic delisting
  • Such a move would probably see shareholders wiped out and could prompt lawsuits
Olympus has been put on watch for a possible delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange after saying on Thursday that it would not meet a deadline to submit earnings.
The company, which this week acknowledged wrongdoing for the first time in a scandal involving more than $1bn in acquisition-related payments, had already delayed its earnings release and faced a mandated deadline of November 14.
Olympus now has until December 14 to produce its earnings report for the six months to September 30 or face an automatic delisting. Such a move would probably see shareholders wiped out and could prompt lawsuits to recoup their losses.
The Nikkei reports that Olympus lenders such as Sumitomo Mitsubishi Banking Corp are planning to meet the group as early as next week to negotiate more security over their loans due to the possible delisting.
Olympus shares fell by their daily limit on Thursday on delisting fears and Japanese press reports that the police are investigating the group.
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Shares closed at Y484 and have fallen about 80 per cent since Olympus dismissed chief executive Michael Woodford after he questioned acquisition payments.
Japanese newspapers reported that police had requested documents from Olympus related to the acquisitions and that Financial Services Agency regulators and the TSE were questioning company executives.
If authorities find that Olympus falsified statements or auditors refused to sign off on its earnings the TSE can put the company on a separate supervisory watch while deliberating whether or not to delist it. Alternatives include demanding the submission and execution of a business improvement plan or payment of a fine.
"The TSE would have to strike a balance between the effect on the market, shareholders and public opinion on Olympus," said Hiroyuki Kamano, a lawyer specialising in corporate governance at Kamano Sogo Law Office.
In the event of a delisting, Mr Kamano said shareholders would have to sell all their holdings to determine the size of their losses before filing lawsuits.
Olympus said on Tuesday it had used four acquisitions completed in 2008 as cover to dispose of losses it had been hiding since the 1990s.
About $1.4bn was diverted through the deals, but it has not disclosed their size or origin or how it was able to disguise them for so long.
Southeastern Asset Management, which owns 5 per cent of Olympus, has called for an emergency meeting to start the process of replacing the board.
Josh Shores, analyst and principal at Southeastern argues that delisting would be punitive for the company rather than the individuals responsible for placing Olympus in this mess.
"At this point Olympus still has a good business, but we are starting to see how this could impact the medical operations," said Josh Shores, an analyst and principal at Southeastern.