Some 2,100 companies across the country held general shareholders’ meetings Thursday following the closing of books in March, making it the peak day for such gatherings for listed and unlisted firms, the National Police Agency said.

The companies included Snow Brand Milk Products Co., which was investigated last year over a food-poisoning scandal; Kokusai Securities Co., whose violation of the Securities and Exchange Law resulted in a suspension order earlier this month; and Maruha Corp., which is facing a charge of evading taxes relating to octopus imports.

Snow Brand President Kohei Nishi apologized for the drastic decline in earnings to some 400 shareholders at the company’s meeting in Sapporo, while Kokusai Securities President Nobuo Nakazawa was also apologetic for his firm’s scandal.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.’s meeting lasted a record-long 2 hours and 50 minutes due to numerous questions from one shareholder.

NTT President Junichiro Miyazu, chairman of the meeting, eventually ordered the shareholder to leave, ending the standoff witnessed by some 2,000 shareholders of the telecom giant.

All Nippon Airways’ meeting was also disrupted by a shareholder who was ordered out after making annoying remarks.

The percentage of companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange that close their books in March and hold shareholders’ meetings on the same day in June has declined since peaking at 96.2 percent in 1995, with 79.5 percent doing so this year, the bourse said.

The Metropolitan Police Department noted that the number of ordinary shareholders seeking chances to make statements is increasing.

The Kabunushi (shareholders) Ombudsman, a civil organization founded in Osaka, has proposed at the meetings the disclosure of executive salaries in a bid to seek more open meetings.

At the first shareholders’ meeting of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. since its launch in April, the ombudsman group pressed other participants to urge the company to disclose executive salaries, citing the bank’s corporate social responsibility.

The NPA said 38 “sokaiya” corporate racketeers attended the meetings of 22 companies nationwide, but no major disturbances were reported.

Sokaiya typically purchase the minimum amount of shares in companies needed to gain access to shareholders’ meetings, which they then threaten to disrupt by divulging embarrassing corporate information unless they are paid off.

Some 6,000 police officers guarded the meetings of around 1,900 companies nationwide, while Tokyo police mobilized 2,300 officers.

Tokyo police said there were around 400 sokaiya as of the end of last year.

Steel firms to integrate

NKK Corp. and Kawasaki Steel Corp. shareholders approved Thursday the companies’ plans to integrate operations in October 2002 under a joint holding company.

The NKK shareholders’ meeting in Tokyo drew 396 participants, while the Kawasaki Steel shareholders’ meeting in Kobe drew 256 participants.

Asked whether the joint company will maintain its two steel plants in Kanagawa and Hiroshima prefectures after the merger, NKK President Yoichi Shimogaichi replied, “We would like to maintain the steel plants, both of which have competitive strength.”

Kawasaki Steel President Kanji Emoto told the meeting he would like to discuss the merger ratio of the two companies at a shareholders’ meeting next year, based on a third-party evaluation.

Kawasaki Steel’s stock price is currently higher than NKK’s.

NKK and Kawasaki Steel, Japan’s second- and third-largest steelmakers, announced in April they would integrate their operations in October 2002 under a joint holding company.

The move is the first integration of operations among major Japanese steelmakers since two steel companies merged in 1970 to create Nippon Steel Corp.

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