Olympus dumped by major shareholder as Japan steps up probe

Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:02am EST
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By Kevin Lim and Lisa Twaronite

SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) - Singapore's sovereign wealth fund said on Saturday it has sold most of its holdings of Olympus Corp (7733.T: Quote) on concern about wrongdoing, the first major shareholder to show it had lost confidence in the scandal-hit Japanese medical device and camera maker.

Japanese authorities are investigating Olympus after the company admitted this week that it hid investment losses for decades using funds from M&A payments. Media reports on Saturday said police and regulators were joining forces in a rare collaborative effort to examine the cover-up.

GIC GIC.UL, which is the acronym for Government of Singapore Investment Corp, was the 10th biggest shareholder in Olympus, with 2.17 percent as of the end of March, according to the latest Olympus annual report.

"GIC disposed of almost all of its investments on first suspicion of possible wrongdoing in Olympus," the Singapore fund said in a statement.

GIC added it had only an insignificant holding under a portfolio managed by an external fund manager. It said the majority of its investment was made in the midst of the global financial crisis.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigations unit, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) will team up to investigate the Olympus cover-up of investment losses, Japanese media reported on Saturday.

Nikkei has said the concealment could have exceeded 130 billion yen ($1.68 billion) at its peak, and said the company's creditors were likely to press for a change in lending terms.

Lenders will confront Olympus next week to demand an explanation on its accounting, a banking source said on Friday, though he denied reports they would seek more security over their loans.   Continued...