Japan Post reappoints scandal-hit Nishikawa

Kyodo News

As expected, shareholders agreed Monday to keep Yoshifumi Nishikawa at the helm of Japan Post Holdings Co., whose attempt to sell its Kampo no Yado resort inns for a fraction of their value was blocked by Kunio Hatoyama.

Nishikawa was appointed by Japan Post’s board during a 20-minute general shareholders’ meeting attended by a senior Finance Ministry official.

Hatoyama’s successor as internal affairs and communications minister, Tsutomu Sato, handed Nishikawa a letter of authorization later in the day, effectively ending the brouhaha over his reappointment.

As internal affairs minister, Sato oversees the postal system, which is undergoing a 10-year privatization process that started in fall 2007. Japan Post is still owned 100 percent by the government.

Before Hatoyama was ousted, he had wanted to block Nishikawa’s reappointment, saying Japan Post attempted to sell to Orix Corp. its nationwide inn network at fire-sale prices and in a murky bidding process.

When Prime Minister Taro Aso refused to agree, Hatoyama resigned June 12, dealing a further blow to the Cabinet’s faltering approval rate.

With the daylong process, Nishikawa, the former head of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., will formally accept a fifth term as head of Japan Post.

Nishikawa submitted business improvement plans to the government last week, pledging to set up an advisory body including third-party experts who would notify local governments of any plans to sell off Japan Post properties.

It remains unclear if the improvement plan will strengthen the firm’s corporate governance and restore people’s trust.

At the shareholders’ meeting, Japan Post reported its financial results for the year that ended March 31, backed Nishikawa’s reappointment and called for the retention of other board members based on a panel’s recommendation in May. Their renominations were approved.

Nishikawa had indicated his willingness to remain president of Japan Post.

The improvement plan handed to Sato last week included a 30 percent pay cut for Nishikawa for three months and tightened internal controls.

Japan Post hatched the plan last year to sell dozens of Kampo no Yado inns and other facilities as part of restructuring. Late in the year it chose Orix after what it claimed was competitive bidding. The price was announced at ¥10.9 billion, compared with the purchase cost of about ¥240 billion.

Hatoyama urged a review of the plan, arguing it was a done deal between Japan Post and Orix before the bidding. The deal was later canceled.

Japan Post Service Co., a unit under Japan Post, was slapped last December with a business improvement order over its slack controls in connection with alleged abuse of a mail discount system for disabled people.