Sony halves its stake in Olympus as accounting scandal is settled

Joseph Millis
Olympus is hoping to have put accounting scandal behind it
JAPANESE electronics giant Sony yesterday halved its stake in Olympus and is no longer its top shareholder, according to the camera and endoscope maker .

Sony now owns five per cent of Olympus shares – worth ¥76bn (£430m) – compared with 10 per cent as of the end of September 2014, Olympus said in a statement.

The TV maker bought shares in Olympus in 2012, providing it with cash to fix its depleted finances after an accounting scandal forced it to restate several years of earnings.

In September 2012, Olympus and three of its former executives pleaded guilty over charges related to a $1.7bn (£1.15bn) accounting cover-up in one of Japan’s biggest corporate scandals.

The scandal was exposed by British-born chief executive Michael Woodford, who was sacked by the Olympus board only two weeks after querying dubious deals later found to have been used to conceal the losses. Revelations of the huge accounting fraud revived calls for more outside scrutiny of its boardrooms but have failed to trigger sweeping corporate governance reforms akin to those started in the wake of US scandals such as at Enron.

“The full responsibility lies with me and I feel deeply sorry for causing trouble to our business partners, shareholders and the wider public,” former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa told the Tokyo district court at the start of the trial nearly a year after the cover-up first came to light.

Last week, Olympus said it had agreed to pay as much as ¥11bn to resolve two civil lawsuits arising from the accounting scandal. Olympus said it had been defending against the claims, but decided that “swiftly resolving this matter through settlement” was best to avoid further litigation and related legal costs.

In 2013, Olympus paid $2.6m to settle a US suit over its accounting and disclosures by investors who bought its US depositary receipts.

Sony shares were up 1.41 per cent in Tokyo last night.