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French Version

Japan braced for invasion of raiders

Corporate Japan is preparing to face an onslaught of foreign takeovers amid the biggest shake-up of company law in 50 years. After years of receiving protection under law, top companies in a variety of sectors are set to become attractive targets for foreign buyers.

British companies are among the most feared, and drugs giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are expected to take an interest in the product pipelines of Japanese rivals, such as Takeda and Daiichi Sankyo.

In the finance sector, companies such as Takefuji could draw interest from HSBC, which, according to speculation, is seeking to establish a retail presence in the world’s second-biggest economy. The new companies’ code took effect from May 1 starting the clock on a set of dramatic changes that will open the door to a wave of takeovers.

The most significant of these changes allows foreign buyers to buy a Japanese company using shares.

Until now, takeovers of Japanese companies have been relatively rare because the buyer was previously forced to pay with cash. Under the new law, foreign companies will, in a year’s time, be allowed to make all-paper offers once they have set up a subsidiary in Japan. Politicians and large industrial lobby groups have opposed the changes and successfully fought to have its introduction delayed by a year.

A lawyer at Freshfields, the law firm, said that the changes would spark panic among Japanese companies, which will seek to introduce defense strategies, such as poison pills, to fend off takeover bids. This process is in turn expected to provoke a clash between Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange on one side, and the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry and business on the other.

Mr Koizumi used his New Year policy speech to call for a doubling of foreign direct investment to 5 percent of GDP by 2011. Attracting foreign interest will also form a large part of a policy guideline that is due to be ratified next month.

Amman,15May2006
Redaction
The Star


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