Olympus Corp. said Wednesday it paid $687 million in advisory fees for its acquisition of Gyrus Group PLC, almost double the ¥30 billion Olympus Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa said the day before.
The fees paid between 2006 and 2010 in the purchase of Gyrus include a $443 million buyback of preferred shares, the company said in a statement. Kikukawa told the Nikkei newspaper Tuesday the total amount was about ¥30 billion.
Olympus issued the statement in response to media reports on a PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by former President Michael C. Woodford, who was fired last week after questioning the size of the payment for the $2 billion purchase of Gyrus.
The report said the Tokyo-based company may face regulatory and legal scrutiny because of the payments. Olympus said the report included “assumptions” and “speculation” and is misleading, according to the statement.
“Investors expected that management would deny everything but in fact the chairman started to admit things,” Yuuki Sakurai, president at Fukoku Capital Management Inc., said in a phone interview. “They admitted the payment even though several years ago they didn’t disclose it. It makes you wonder if there’s more out there.”
The shares of Olympus slumped as much as 6.6 percent to ¥1,323, and traded at ¥1,372 as of the 11 a.m. morning close of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The stock has tumbled 45 percent since Woodford was fired.
Shareholders including Nippon Life Insurance Co. have seen more than $3.9 billion in the market value of their investment wiped out since the board fired Woodford, saying he “wouldn’t listen” to Kikukawa.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., in a report Wednesday, suspended its ratings on the company saying the “adequacy” of the company’s accounting practices regarding past acquisitions has become unclear. JP Morgan Securities LLC and Cosmo Securities Co. also suspended their ratings on the company. Citigroup Global Markets Japan is reviewing its coverage of the company.
The scandal deepened after Woodford handed documents relating to the fees including the PwC report to the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office Monday. He requested an investigation because the payments were made in the U.K.
Olympus may sue Woodford for leaking internal information to the press, Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori said in a conference call with investors and analysts on Monday, according to a research note by a Tokyo-based unit of Morgan Stanley.
A U.K. fraud investigation is “unlikely” to trigger a move by the Tokyo Stock Exchange to put Olympus on a watch list, according to Kazuyuki Miyaji, a division manager in the exchange’s disclosure division. That decision would hinge on the company’s own version of events and the results of an investigation by the exchange, he said in a phone interview.
“Generally speaking, only when the Tokyo Stock Exchange judges that there is a misrepresentation on their securities report and the misrepresentation is critical enough to affect investors’ decision-making, then we determine to put a company on a watch list,” he said.
Potential offenses by Olympus include false accounting and breaches of duties by the board, according to the Oct. 11 report by PwC that Woodford provided to Bloomberg News. Most of the payments were made through Olympus’s U.K. unit, Woodford said in an interview.
One of the advisers receiving the fees, Cayman Islands-incorporated AXAM Investments Ltd., was removed from the local registry in 2010, according to an official filing. PwC said they were unable to identify the owners of AXAM Investments.
Olympus Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori said the PwC report “is based on speculation,” when asked about it in a telephone interview on Sunday.
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