MediaFile

Tech wrap: Olympus shareholders want entire board purged

November 8, 2011

Pressure mounted on Japan’s Olympus to take radical action after it admitted to hiding losses on securities investments for decades, with the camera and endoscope maker’s largest foreign investor demanding the resignation of the company’s entire board. Southeastern Asset Management, which owns about five percent of the 92-year-old company, said Tuesday’s admission “changes everything”.

Brushing aside new Olympus President Shuichi Takayama’s insistence he was “absolutely unaware of the facts,” Southeastern told Reuters correspondents Sinead Cruise and Kirstin Ridley that any further reign of the Olympus board risked damaging the company’s key medical business. Takayama, a previous board member who was promoted last month, blamed former Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, Vice-President Hisashi Mori and internal auditor Hideo Yamada for the cover-up, saying he would consider criminal action.

Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford, who was fired on October 14 after persistently asking why the company had spent around $1.3 billion on obscure fees and acquisitions, told Reuters that the company’s partners should come under close scrutiny after Tuesday’s admission and that questions remained to be answered about the money trail. “You need forensic accountants going in there to find out where the money has gone, who has worked with Olympus, who has cooperated with Olympus, who has received fees from Olympus,” he told Reuters Insider. “Those are questions we need answered. And then we need an impairment test.”

Discontent continues to grow among a group of Research in Motion shareholders who are demanding the BlackBerry maker do more to breath life into its slumping share price. As Reuters correspondents Pav Jordan and Alastair Sharp report, three Research in Motion shareholders backing a call from merchant bank Jaguar Financial for transformational change at the Canadian smartphone company said the still-informal group was bound to grow if RIM’s shares don’t rebound soon. Jaguar says the dissidents want a sale of the company as a whole or in parts, and the replacement of co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. The pair are RIM’s two largest shareholders and the most powerful figures in its management.

British billionaire Richard Branson has made a “multimillion” dollar investment in Square, a mobile payment startup led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, reports Reuters correspondent Alexei Oreskovic. Branson’s investment in Square follows a $100 million investment in June led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and an investment for an undisclosed amount by credit card company Visa in April. Square’s technology lets merchants accept payments using tablet PCs or mobile phones. The company recorded $10 million in daily transactions for the first time this past weekend, spokeswoman Katie Baynes told Reuters, up from the $4 million per day in gross payment volume that it announced during the summer.

Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL have set up an advertising partnership meant to take on the growing dominance of Google and Facebook in the online ad sector, reports correspondent Jennifer Saba. The alliance, announced on Tuesday, allows each of the companies to sell each other’s unsold premium advertising inventory — known as display ads — by early next year. Display units are big splashy units that appear on Web pages and attract marketers interested in branding their products or services. Typically, these ads command higher rates.

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