MediaFile

Tech wrap: Olympus shareholders want entire board purged

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.

Tech wrap: Groupon goes public, super nova

Shares of daily deals site Groupon rose more than 50 percent in their stock market debut, but at least some of the early trading exuberance may have come from limiting the fraction of the company that was sold. The shares rose as high as $31.14, or 55.7 percent above the IPO price, in early trading on the Nasdaq, at one point pushing the market value of the company up to $19.9 billion.  The shares later eased back, closing at $26.11. Despite the early success, there are still lingering questions about Groupon’s business model and about competition from better-funded rivals such as Amazon.com and Google.

Yahoo has signed confidentiality agreements with several parties interested in buying all or part of the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The Internet pioneer said potential buyers had to sign an agreement by Friday to be allowed a close look at Yahoo’s finances. But the Friday deadline could be extended into next week to provide more time for other firms to sign on, the sources said. Some private equity firms have balked at signing Yahoo’s nondisclosure agreement because of restrictions that would prevent them from forming consortiums, sources told Reuters last week.

EU regulators are investigating whether Samsung and Apple may have breached EU antitrust laws with patent infringement claims in their global legal battle over the lucrative smartphone and tablet market. “The (European) Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of ‘standards-essential’ patents in the mobile telephony sector,” the European Commission said in a statement. Standards-essential patents means they have been incorporated in internationally accepted technology standards, which in the case of Samsung and Apple, means 3G and UMTS technology.

Tech wrap: Yahoo finds interclick, pays $270 million for it

CORRECTION: The original headline falsely stated that Yahoo will pay $240 million for interclick. The correct amount is $270 million.

Yahoo will pay $270 million for interclick as it tries to revive its ailing online advertising business, even as the search and advertising giant continues to scout for potential bidders. Yahoo is paying $9 per share, or about a 22 percent premium, for the online advertising technology firm. “It’s not a transformational acquisition, but it helps Yahoo in a market they are not strong in … they have to take some steps to keep pushing forward,” BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis said. Among the parties interested in Yahoo are private equity firms Silver Lake, TPG Capital, Bain Capital, Blackstone, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Providence Equity Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Carlyle Group, and Russian technology investment firm DST Global, apart from rivals Microsoft and Google.

Olympus named six men, including a former Japanese supreme court justice, to investigate past M&A deals at the core of a scandal engulfing the endoscope and camera maker in a bid to stem an exodus of irate investors. None of the six have had any previous association with the company, an Olympus spokeswoman said. As yet, no deadline for the group to report its findings has been set, she added.