Nippon Paper Group Inc., the holding firm of Japan’s No. 2 pulp and paper company, said Thursday it will buy Hokuetsu Paper Mills Ltd. shares to get an equity stake of less than 10 percent.
The move is to block a hostile takeover bid targeting Hokuetsu, the No. 6 in the industry, by the No. 1, Oji Paper Co., it said.
With Nippon Paper’s move, Oji’s bid — the first hostile takeover attempt in Japan by a major company of an industry rival — took a new twist involving three major players in the same sector.
Nippon Paper currently holds an 8.49 percent stake in Hokuetsu. The firm said it will purchase additional shares even after Hokuetsu issues new shares to Mitsubishi Corp. on Monday.
After the share issue, Mitsubishi will hold a stake of some 24 percent in Hokuetsu. A combination of the Mitsubishi and increased Nippon Paper stakes is expected to make it more difficult for Oji to acquire a majority stake in Hokuetsu.
A Hokuetsu panel consisting of three outside auditors is expected soon to recommend a measure to allow Hokuetsu shareholders other than Oji to double their voting rights and thus dilute Oji’s rights.
Nippon Paper wants to stop Oji from taking over Hokuetsu, which would increase its dominance in the pulp and paper industry, analysts said, citing Hokuetsu’s good profitability due to its advanced production facilities.
Oji launched a buyout bid Wednesday for shares of Hokuetsu in an effort to create the world’s fifth-largest pulp and paper manufacturer in terms of sales, if realized.
Hokuetsu immediately rejected Oji’s bid and went into defensive mode.
Nippon Paper said Oji’s move to merge with Hokuetsu “disturbs the order” in Japan’s pulp and paper industry and called on Hokuetsu and Mitsubishi Corp. to form a flexible alliance.
Nippon Paper President Masatomo Nakamura conveyed to a news conference that his company has no interest in taking part in Hokuetsu’s management.
However, he called on Hokuetsu and Mitsubishi to form a flexible alliance with Nippon Paper.
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