Tokyo court shoots down Rakuten request

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TOKYO -- The Tokyo District Court on Thursday rebuffed a request that Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. open its corporate books and reveal how it was protecting itself from a hostile takeover from Internet mall operator Rakuten Inc.

Rakuten has been purchasing shares in the broadcaster for more than two years and presently owns close to 20% of all TBS stock, but claims that TBS is unfairly shielding itself by arranging cross-shareholding ties with firms on a sounder financial footing.

Rakuten president Hiroshi Mikitani has stated that he would like to increase his stake in TBS to 21%, though shareholders and management are alarmed at the prospect of the broadcaster becoming an affiliate of the online company, which could mean losing editorial control of content.

Rakuten claims that it should be granted access to the data on the grounds that the two firms are not competitors, but judge Koichi Namba disagreed.

"Rakuten engages in broadcasting services as well as Internet services, while TBS is developing operations designed to combine broadcasting and Internet services," he said. "The two companies are competing with each other in their mainstay Internet and broadcasting services and are likely to intensify that competition."

A Rakuten spokeswoman said that the company is examining the ruling and will make a decision on its next actions at the appropriate time.

TBS officials declined comment.

Rakuten's response to this setback will be closely watched after it appeared earlier this month to have convinced the TBS board that its approach was not hostile.
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