• SHARE

Fuji Television Network Inc. on Tuesday decided on a sharp dividend hike for the current fiscal year in a thinly veiled attempt to defend itself against Livedoor Co.’s hostile takeover bid for Nippon Broadcasting System Inc.

Fuji TV said it will boost its fiscal 2004 dividend by 3,000 yen per share from the previous year to 5,000 yen, abandoning its earlier plan to pay 1,200 yen for the year to March 31. The decision resulted from a review of payout ratios, the TV broadcaster said.

NBS is Fuji TV’s largest shareholder.

However, a Fuji TV executive admitted the move “is not unrelated to the Livedoor problem,” indicating Fuji TV’s board of directors intends to enhance its defense against hostile takeovers by raising its stock price.

The decision follows last Friday’s court ruling blocking a plan by NBS to issue equity warrants to Fuji TV in an attempt to prevent the Internet company from taking it over.

Fuji TV’s directors also decided Tuesday to buy the warrants ahead of the March 24 issue date if the ruling is retracted.

Earlier in the day, NBS President Akinobu Kamebuchi suggested his company was considering adopting a “scorched earth” defense policy in which it would sell off many of its most valuable assets.

“I’m not ready yet to tell you about it, but I am personally studying various ways of selling off (the company’s) assets piece by piece,” Kamebuchi told reporters.

On Monday, he said NBS may sell its shareholdings in music label Pony Canyon Inc., a key asset of the radio broadcaster, to Fuji TV.

The latest remarks suggest NBS may sell other assets as well, including its shareholdings in Fuji TV and the Yokohama BayStars baseball team.

Livedoor, which has reportedly purchased 48 percent of voting rights in NBS, aims to acquire a majority stake by the end of this week. Fuji TV holds a 39 percent stake in terms of voting rights.

Fuji TV Chairman Hisashi Hieda indicated Tuesday that his firm would buy a controlling stake in companies belonging to the Fujisankei Communications Group if those companies ask it to do so to prevent Livedoor from entering their management. Fuji TV is the core company of the media conglomerate.

“If Nippon Broadcasting wants to remain as a Fujisankei group company, I think it is our job to grant that wish,” Hieda told reporters.

The tug-of-war between Fuji TV and Livedoor for control of NBS is likely to be greatly affected by the actions of M&A Consulting Inc., an investment fund headed by former trade ministry official Yoshiaki Murakami. The fund is also known as the Murakami Fund.

According to a report the fund made to the Finance Ministry on Tuesday, it held only 3.44 percent of outstanding NBS shares at the end of February, down sharply from 18.57 percent on Jan. 15.

Despite the steep fall, analysts suspect the Murakami Fund will help Livedoor acquire a controlling interest in NBS if it decides to side with the Internet company.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)