• Kyodo, Staff Report


Oil distributors Idemitsu Kosan Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. have decided to postpone their planned April merger as Idemitsu has yet to gain consent for the deal from the founding family, the two companies said Thursday.

Idemitsu, the nation’s second largest wholesaler, and Showa Shell, the fifth biggest, announced the decision at a joint news conference on Thursday afternoon in Tokyo.

Idemitsu President Takashi Tsukioka said the company will continue trying to persuade its founding family to give its consent to the planned merger.

Idemitsu and Showa Shell originally revealed a plan to merge in 2015. But the progress of the merger has become increasingly uncertain after Idemitsu founding members, who hold a 34 percent stake, enough to veto the merger, announced their opposition to the plan in June.

Idemitsu management still hopes to persuade the founding family to approve the merger, although its representatives have refused requests for talks with management since July, according to the sources.

The founding family, including Honorary Chairman Shosuke Idemitsu, opposes the merger, citing differences in corporate culture, among other things.

The family opposes the merger partly because of Showa Shell’s close ties with Saudi Arabia, according to earlier media reports.

Idemitsu Kosan has maintained a close relationship with Iran and descendants of the company’s founder are concerned about the merger amid intensifying tensions between the two countries, the reports said.

Idemitsu is nevertheless expected to purchase a 33.3 percent stake in Showa Shell from Royal Dutch Shell PLC this month or in November, the sources said.

Given the latest development, shares of the two companies dropped Thursday at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, with Idemitsu closing the day’s trading at ¥2,251, down 2.6 percent, and Showa Shell falling 4 percent to ¥950.

Japan’s oil industry has seen a shake-up through acquisitions and mergers in the face of declining demand due to Japan’s decreasing population and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles in recent years.

Against this backdrop, JX Holdings Inc. and TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK finalized an agreement to merge and create Japan’s biggest oil refiner from April next year.

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