Business

Shareholders' meetings to begin in earnest

Shareholders’ meetings will get into full swing next week, with giants Sony Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. meeting investors during the annual events.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange said that 523 of the 1,752 companies listed on the TSE and its Mothers startup section as of fiscal 2003 will hold shareholders’ meetings next week.

The meeting season will peak on June 29, when 1,120, or 64 percent, of the TSE-listed companies will hold gatherings.

Fearful of “sokaiya” corporate racketeers, Japanese companies have traditionally scheduled the event on the same day to reduce the chances of them being singled out as targets.

In 1995, a record 96 percent of all listed companies held shareholders’ meetings on the same day.

Yet this practice has been criticized for limiting the attendance of individual shareholders who hold multiple stakes, and the practice has gradually declined.

Some companies try to court individual investors by scheduling the events on weekends or holding them at amusement parks.

Setting the problem of corporate racketeers aside, shareholders’ meetings in Japan have been a relatively quiet affair, with cross-shareholdings with banks ensuring swift passage of management proposals.

But growth in the number of individual and foreign investors in recent years is expected to give these procedures a much-needed jolt.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. held its shareholders’ meeting Friday at a Tokyo Hotel. Beginning this year, the company started letting investors cast ballots through its i-mode Internet cell phone service. Some 778 shareholders used the system.

The country’s largest mobile phone carrier, which is 64 percent owned by NTT Corp. and has enjoyed a year of record profits, was not immune to the wrath of investors, who took turns to criticize the company’s overseas investments at the meeting.

The meeting lasted about 2 1/2 hours, but at the end, all company proposals were endorsed by a majority of shareholders. The proposals included a list of board members featuring Masao Nakamura, who was named as successor to NTT DoCoMo President Keiji Tachikawa.

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