Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Tigers, hungry bears at shareholder meetings
The annual shareholders meeting season is in full swing in Japan, and some executives have been dodging fastballs from disgruntled investors.
Quite a few managers are stepping up to the podium with a heavy feeling this year, as irate shareholders offer feelings about dividend cuts and plunging share prices.
The outgoing president of Toyota Motor was one top guy apologising; Japan’s No. 1 automaker expects a second straight year of record, multi-billion dollar losses this financial year.
Executives at Hankyu Hanshin Holdings were also forced to apologise at a meeting last week, but not for the Osaka-based railway’s own performance.
Local media said one incensed investor got up and lambasted the company for the hiring strategy of its hugely popular baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers.
“I don’t know what’s going on – you guys just keep hiring duds,” the man complained.
An executive in charge of the team apologised on behalf of the Tigers, who have their tails between their legs at the moment, sitting fifth in a six-team league.
A Hankyu spokesman was quick to point out that this was the only question about the team, though, while the 17 other shareholders who spoke at the meeting talked mostly about railway services and facilities. He added that there were few questions or complaints about the company’s performance.
I’m a die-hard Tigers fan myself and I share the guy’s frustration, but the quirky questions and comments at some of these annual meetings are odd.
Occasionally, tech geeks stand up to show off their knowledge before major executives at consumer electronics companies. One of the funniest was at a mobile phone shareholders meeting a few years ago when a middle-aged woman was upset because a receptionist had forgotten to give her a box of cakes, apparently standard practice at the yearly meetings.
“This is what I look forward to every year,” she said.
An executive – perhaps in charge of shareholder cake-relations - answered gravely: “We are very sorry to have caused you trouble. We will take care of this matter promptly.”
Photo credits: Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe/REUTERS Issei Kato, Hanshin Tigers fans/REUTERS stringer