Rakuten activates TBS voting rights

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TOKYO -- Online mall operator Rakuten Inc. has ratcheted up the pressure on Tokyo Broadcasting System by ending the freeze on its voting rights in the company, prompting speculation that the Japanese broadcaster may soon face a hostile takover bid.

Rakuten, which holds more than 19% of TBS shares, proposed intergrating the management of the two companies in October 2005. The broadcaster fended off the initial approach, with the two agreeing on areas of cooperation and that Rakuten would put its stake in the company into trust and freeze its voting rights.

On Wednesday morning, TBS was informed by Rakuten that the arrangement would come to an end the same day.

With the relationship between the two organizations already confrontational, Rakuten is expected to try to secure additional shares or win over other shareholders.

In a statement released earlier in the day, Rakuten said the shares would be taken back but that the company: "Wanted to show its sincerity to the stock market and other TBS share holders."

Neither company would comment further on the matter, though TBS convened an emergency board meeting in the afternoon.

The broadcaster reportedly asked Rakuten earlier in the week to keep its voting rights frozen and abstain from purchasing any more shares in the company.

The affair has echoes of the campaign by Internet mogul Takafumi Horie to take control of Fuji Television Network in 2005, although that hostile approach came to a sudden halt when Horie was arrested for fraud.
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