Olympus Corp’s former president Michael Woodford pledged to work with the Japanese camera maker’s board to try to avoid delisting after three executives implicated in a scheme to hide losses resigned.
The company’s priority is to produce accounts by the Dec. 14 deadline set by regulators to avoid being removed from public trading, Woodford told reporters in Tokyo yesterday after his first board meeting since being axed.
The stock jumped as much as 25 percent as investors bet the scandal would be contained and after Olympus on Thursday night promised to put a rescue plan to shareholders and revamp management.
The resignation of former Olympus chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and two senior aides gives the company an opportunity to add board members untainted by the scandal.
Woodford’s exposure of US$687 million in fees paid by Olympus to a now-defunct Cayman Islands-based fund rattled investors, prompting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to say the payments could damage the country’s international reputation.
While Olympus shareholders, including Southeastern Asset Management Inc, have called for the 51-year-old Briton to be reinstated, the matter was not discussed at yesterday’s meeting, Woodford told reporters.
He has said he would return to the company if shareholders request it, though he added at a later press conference in Tokyo that “he isn’t begging to come back.”
The board meeting was “constructive,” Woodford said, adding that there was a desire to “be civilized.”
“Japan does need people to challenge, scrutinize,” said Woodford, in white shirt and tie and watched by hundreds of journalists at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
“In Japan, even the meetings were pre-decided,” he said.
Shares of the 92-year-old camera and endoscope maker closed 8.6 percent higher at ￥1,107 in Tokyo yesterday, a fourth straight daily advance.
Woodford’s return to Japan is the first since he left the country on the same day as his dismissal, saying he felt unsafe following reports that the payments made by Olympus could be linked to organized--crime groups.
He was escorted by armed police to meetings with investigators on Thursday.
Woodford said he was confident prosecutors would fully investigate Olympus.
“I’m very happy with how things went,” he told reporters after visiting police in Tokyo.
The police will decide if the company was involved in organized crime, Woodford said, adding there has been no evidence of any links so far.