• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. shareholders approved on Wednesday proposals by the firm to launch a stock buyback scheme and a stock option incentive plan.

Toyota’s annual shareholders’ meeting went smoothly as the automaker posted robust earnings in the 2001 business year.

In May, the nation’s top automaker reported that its group pretax profits had risen 14.5 percent to a record 1.114 trillion yen in 2001, becoming the first Japanese firm ever to post pretax profits of 1 trillion yen.

Commenting on these results, Toyota Motor President Fujio Cho attributed them to the “achievements of management efforts of the group as a whole, including dealers and parts makers.”

During the meeting, Toyota proposed that it buy back shares worth 600 billion yen and introduce a stock option incentive plan, under which employees will be given the option of buying company shares at a specified price.

Under the buyback plan, Toyota expects to absorb shares scheduled to be sold by banks, which are accelerating their maneuvers to unload cross-held shares.

The meeting was attended by 745 shareholders and lasted for one hour, 44 minutes.

Apology from Nikko

The chairman and president of Nikko Cordial Corp. apologized to shareholders Wednesday over money management funds run by Nikko Asset Management Co. that fell below their face value in November.

“I’m sorry that (MMFs) caused great inconvenience and anxiety for investors,” Masashi Kaneko said at the outset of the annual shareholders’ meeting.

Nikko Asset’s MMFs, the equivalent of money market funds in the United States, incorporated bonds issued by U.S. energy giant Enron Corp.

The MMFs dropped below par in late November on reports Enron was near collapse. Enron filed for bankruptcy in early December.

Nikko Cordial is a holding company for securities and financial firms, including Nikko Asset and Nikko Cordial Securities Inc.

Nikko Asset had more than 3.9 trillion yen worth of outstanding MMFs at the end of October. But by the end of February, the amount had shrunk to around 173 billion yen due to a slew of cancellations after the MMFs fell below par.

UFJ sorry, too

The president of UFJ Holdings Inc., one of Japan’s four major banking groups, apologized to shareholders Wednesday for not making dividend payments for the 2001 business year.

“We took drastic measures (such as for bad-loan disposals) and posted losses,” Hideo Ogasawara said at a shareholders’ meeting at UFJ’s office in Tokyo. “I would like to take this opportunity to apologize.”

UFJ Holdings saw group net losses of 1.23 trillion yen in 2001 due to the nearly 2 trillion yen booked in loan-loss charges by its two group banks.

Ogasawara also apologized for UFJ Bank’s misuse of customer information. The bank used Government Housing Loan Corp.’s customer files to market its loans in April via direct mail. The government loan provider punished UFJ Bank by preventing it from handling its housing loans for one month starting July 1.

UFJ Bank was launched Jan. 15 through the merger of Sanwa Bank and Tokai Bank. UFJ Trust Bank was established the same day by renaming Toyo Trust & Banking Co.

JAS-JAL tieup OK’d

Japan Air System shareholders approved at their annual meeting Wednesday the carrier’s plan to join forces with Japan Airlines later this year.

JAS and JAL are to integrate their operations under a joint holding company, Japan Airlines System Corp., to be set up in October. A JAL shareholders’ meeting is slated for Thursday.

During the JAS meeting, some shareholders voiced concern about the integration plan.

But JAS President Hiromi Funabiki tried to seek their support, saying the integration plan will allow the company to bolster its business base to compete better at home and abroad.

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