Pentax chief set to quit over takeover dispute

The president of Pentax, one of the world’s best-known camera brands, is set to resign over pressure from shareholders unhappy about the terms of a takeover offer from Hoya, the Japanese specialist glassmaker.

Pentax said yesterday that Fumio Urano was expected to resign following a board meeting on Tuesday. It is understood that Mr Urano will step down to take responsibility for helping engineer a share swap in December with Hoya that shareholders later dismissed as too low.

Under the terms of the initial agreement, Hoya was set to exchange 0.158 of its shares for each Pentax share, which valued the camera maker at Y91bn and represented a premium of 10 per cent.

Folowing a shareholder revolt, Hoya said it would aim to acquire a majority stake in the camera maker by offering Y770 per Pentax share, a 20 per cent premium to its share price when Hoya first made its bid in December. Hoya has not yet officially proposed the revised offer to Pentax, but is expected to hold a board meeting on Tuesday to finalise the new terms of the deal.

Pentax’s biggest shareholder is Sparx Asset Management, an activist hedge fund that has a 24 per cent stake in the camera maker. Fidelity Investments has the second largest holding with a 12.6 per cent stake. Both Sparx and Fidelity declined to comment on Monday.

The increased all-cash offer underlines growing shareholder activism in Japan. In February, shareholders of Tokyo Kohtetsu, a steelmaker, rejected a takeover attempt by Osaka Steel on the grounds that the swap ratio was unfair. The move marked the first successful proxy battle in Japan brought by individuals.

Hoya Pentax HD – the name of the newly merged company – aims to retain strengths in lenses and other components for digital cameras and will create a Japanese powerhouse in optical healthcare equipment.

Hoya’s healthcare business is focused on lenses used in cataract operations. The acquisition of Pentax will add a speciality in endoscopes.

Pentax, like its peers Konica and Minolta, failed to gain a strong early foothold in the digital camera market, allowing rivals such as Canon and even new entrants such as Sony and Panasonic to win big market shares.

Pentax shares rose 9 per cent on Monday to Y800, while Hoya shares closed up 1 per cent at Y4,140.

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