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Japanese ‘Insurers to Sell $3.1 Billion of Honda Shares’

The move follows a call by the financial regulator for companies to unwind cross-shareholdings, which are seen as spurring lax governance

A Honda vehicle is seen at the Bangkok International Motor Show (Reuters file image).


Four large insurance firms and other financial companies in Japan plan to sell around 500 billion yen ($3.1 billion) worth of shares in Honda Motor, according to three sources.

The move by Tokio Marine Holdings Sompo Holdings and two units of MS&AD Insurance Group follows an order from financial regulators for them to unwind cross-shareholdings.

The insurers and other firms will offload shares in the automaker together, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the information has not been made public.


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Other financial institutions will also pare back their Honda stakes, bringing the total sale to around 500 billion yen based on Honda’s current share price, they said.

Honda is set to formally give the insurers the go-ahead to sell their shares soon, the sources said.

The automaker has already announced plans to buy back up to 300 billion yen of its shares during the current financial year, a move that could help absorb some of the impact from the sale.

Honda declined to comment on the insurers’ sale, saying only that the information was not something it had announced yet. Spokespeople for Tokio Marine, Sompo and MS&AD also declined to comment.

The four firms, which include MS&AD units Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance, have previously said they would bring all cross shareholding arrangements to zero.

Honda is one of the top five cross-shareholding companies for the insurers except for Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance, according to securities filings as of March.


Cross shareholdings blamed for lax governance

The sale of shares of a high-profile company, in which the insurers have notable stakes, is the latest sign that the unwinding of cross-shareholding is gaining pace in Japan.

Cross-shareholding, or companies holding shares in each other, was long seen as a way to cement business ties. However, governance experts and foreign investors have said it protects management from shareholders, leading to lax governance.

The four insurers, or their parents, held more than 300 billion yen of Honda shares as of March, with Tokio Marine at 161 billion yen, Sompo Japan at 81 billion, Mitsui Sumitomo at 73 billion and Aioi Nissay at 2.8 billion, securities filings showed.

In total, the four held some 9 trillion yen worth of cross shareholdings as of March, with Toyota Motor, Shin-etsu Chemical and Itochu among the top names, the filings showed.

In December, the four insurers were handed a business improvement order by Japan’s Financial Services Agency after they were found to have fixed the prices of their corporate insurance fees. The regulator told them to reduce their cross-shareholdings.

Honda itself counted almost 50 companies in which it has shareholdings as of March, including Renesas Electronics, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Tokio Marine Holdings, shareholder filings showed.

Shares of Honda turned negative in late trade on Tuesday following the report and ended the day down 1.45% at 1,735 yen, after earlier rising as high as 1,801 yen.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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