Business

Itoyama sheds half of JAL shareholdings

Eitaro Itoyama, a former lawmaker and one of Japan Airlines Corp.’s largest shareholders, said Wednesday he has sold half of his stake in the airline holding firm on the stock market.

Itoyama disclosed the sale on his Web site, saying he “cannot secure a return on his 50 billion yen investment (in JAL) due to the nonpayment of dividends for the second consecutive year.”

On March 2, JAL unveiled a five-year management plan to take effect in fiscal 2006 that is designed to win back public trust and passengers who are defecting to rival airlines over concerns about JAL’s safety and financial problems.

JAL will pay no dividend for fiscal 2005, which ends Friday, and the new management plan also calls for dividends to be withheld in fiscal 2006.

Itoyama, a former member of the House of Representatives, voiced his unhappiness with the plan in an interview shortly after it was made public, threatening to sell his stake if JAL failed to meet its earnings target.

Last Sept. 30, Itoyama was JAL’s second-biggest shareholder, with 80,371,000 shares, or 4.05 percent, slightly less than the 80,397,000 shares held by the railway Tokyu Corp.

Itoyama said in a message posted on his Web site Wednesday that he would repurchase JAL shares “if the management strives to increase shareholder value,” but added that if the share price drops further, “I will consider selling more shares.”

The release of the new management plan by JAL came a day after the company’s announcement that President Toshiyuki Shinmachi will step down in June.