Olympus Execs Consider Recovery Options

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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Leaders of disgraced electronics manufacturer Olympus discussed their options for shoring up the company's huge investment losses on Thursday, as earnings were expected to slide further into the red.

Olympus President Shuichi Takayama said at a press conference that the Japanese company was considering business partnerships to help put it back on track after being rocked by a massive accounting scandal.

“We will do our best with a humble attitude to restore customers' trust and maintain our brand power as well as our technology that can compete in global market.”

Former CEO Michael Woodford first exposed the firm's accounting problems in October and was unanimously fired. Some senior company officials later admitted to covering up an estimated $1.5 billion in losses on securities investments, dating back to the 1990s.

Takayama confirmed on Thursday reports that the company is set lose another $414 million in the first half of this fiscal year.

Company leaders are now embroiled in a debate over who will run the company. The board has committed to resigning amid the scandal but wants to choose its successors. Reuters reports Takayama said on Thursday that all board members may not need to resign, if they are not found responsible.

Woodford was in Tokyo on Wednesday for meetings with investors and legislators. The 51-year-old is appealing to shareholders to reinstate him as part of a complete renewal of the board. He urged the board to step down on Wednesday, saying he wanted to avoid a proxy fight.

Shareholders will vote on new management at a March or April meeting.

The company filed five years of revised earning reports on Wednesday, meeting a deadline to avoid being removed from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Olympus still risks being de-listed pending the results of an investigation into the case.

Olympus originally denied wrongdoing in the accounting scandal, but then acknowledged massive losses were in part through a $2 billion purchase of a British medical equipment maker in 2008. The purchase price included a $687 million advisory fee, which was far above the usual fee paid for such a deal.

The 92-year-old company is still under investigation by Japanese police and public prosecutors, who may bring criminal charges against senior officials.

A committee investigating Olympus released a report earlier this month putting the blame on what the panel calls the company's “rotten” top management and “contaminated” senior executives.

The committee praised Woodford, and identified former Vice President Hisashi Mori and ex-internal auditor Hideo Yamada as central figures behind the scheme. Both have since resigned.

The chair of the panel, Tatsuo Kainaka, said other board members were aware of the scheme, but he said the company as a whole did not participate in the cover-up.