JAL scores profitable IPO in milestone turnaround

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Japan Airlines Co. relisted its shares Wednesday on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, opening a new chapter as a publicly traded company two years and seven months after its bankruptcy led to the delisting of the former state-owned carrier.

JAL stock ended its first day of trading at ¥3,830, slightly above its initial offering price of ¥3,790. At one point, the stock topped ¥3,900.

Based on the initial quote, JAL’s market value is nearly ¥700 billion, making it the largest initial public offering in Japan since Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. was listed in April 2010.

JAL’s parent, Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. of Japan, floated all of its 175 million shares, recovering its ¥350 billion investment and earning nearly ¥300 billion extra.

“Relisting is merely a starting point for us as a private company,” JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki told reporters Wednesday at the TSE. “We will continue to conduct surefire management and boost the corporate value without reacting nervously to today’s share price.”

Kazuo Inamori, honorary chairman of JAL, said he had no idea whether he could revitalize the ailing carrier when he took the chairmanship more than two years ago.

“I’ve worked feverishly to bring all of the employees’ minds together as one. I’m full of deep emotion to see this day,” Inamori, 80, said. He also said that he plans to leave JAL next March or after a shareholders’ meeting in June.

“The aviation business is volatile due to event risks, such as the economic climate, political situation and natural disasters. There is a risk of losing all passengers at once,” Inamori said. Although JAL will expand its business, the carrier will do so with utmost caution, he said. “I’ve told (Chairman Masaru) Onishi and Ueki to be extremely careful in running the business.”

JAL filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2010 and was delisted the following month. Under the leadership of charismatic businessman Inamori, the founder of Kyocera Corp., the former flagship carrier underwent a drastic restructuring, including cutting about 30 percent of its workforce and axing unprofitable domestic and international routes.