• Kyodo


The Osaka District Court has accepted a request from the investment fund led by outspoken financier Yoshiaki Murakami to appoint an inspector to watch over the upcoming shareholders’ meeting of Hanshin Electric Railway Co., sources said Saturday.

The Murakami fund — the largest shareholder of the Osaka-based railway operator — wants to make sure its proposal that Hanshin accept nine of its recommendations for board members is treated fairly at the meeting, the sources said.

The shareholders’ meeting is scheduled for June 29.

If the fund gets nine members on the board it would have a majority.

Hanshin has grown suspicious, saying the fund changed its stance on investing in the railway from its earlier stated “pure investment” objective to seeking majority control of the board.

The court-appointed inspector will determine whether Hanshin behaves appropriately in how it sends out invitations for the shareholders’ meeting to those who are eligible.

The Murakami fund also got permission from the court to allow it to make copies of the minutes of the shareholders’ meeting, the sources said.

The purpose of the fund seeking such copies is likely so it can learn the process of Hanshin’s reaching an accord with Hankyu Holdings Inc. to integrate their management, they said. The fund apparently considers it necessary to assess the benefit of the integration.

Hanshin announced the agreement in late April with Hankyu, which is the owner of Hankyu Corp., a railway operator competing with Hanshin in the Kansai region.

Since last fall, after the Murakami fund emerged as a major shareholder of Hanshin, the two have been engaged in a tussle over the fund’s demands regarding the railway’s management policies.

In view of the management integration with Hanshin, Hankyu has been negotiating to buy the fund’s stake in Hanshin. But the negotiations have been stalled due to a wide gap over the selling price.

Hankyu hopes they can come to terms by late this month, but the Murakami fund has shown it is in no hurry to sell its stake, according to the sources.

A report submitted by the fund to financial authorities showed that it had a 46.82 percent stake in Hanshin as of last Wednesday, up 0.17 percentage point from late April.

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