July 8, 2011 / 8:42 AM / 8 years ago

Rakuten CEO mulls taking on powerful Keidanren lobby

TOKYO, July 8 (Reuters) - The head of online retailer Rakuten Inc said on Friday he may start an alternative group to the Keidanren, Japan’s most influential business lobby, which he quit last month because it refused to back a breakup of the electric power industry.

Hiroshi Mikitani, at an event promoting ideas to revive areas affected by the March earthquake, also criticised Japan’s business environment, saying it constrains the creativity of entrepreneurs and urging more to be done to unleash their potential.

“I may expand JeBA’s scope or create something entirely new,” Mikitani told Reuters after the event, suggesting he may lure other industries to the organisation.

The Japan e-business Association (JeBA), which Mikitani started in 2010, is made up of some 1,180 e-commerce businesses including Yahoo Japan Corp and Cyber Agent .

As Japan fights to bring under control nuclear reactors damaged by a March 11 quake and tsunami, debate has raged over proposals to separate the generation and distribution of power. Such a separation would allow new entrants to the industry, including renewable energy suppliers.

The Keidanren, an organisation centered around traditional manufacturers such as Toyota Motor and which also includes the big utilities among its members, opposes any breakup, saying it would destabilise the power supply.

“I decided to quit Keidanren based on the assumption they represent special interests for a specific segment of companies. I just thought it’s not very fair,” said Mikitani, who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“Japanese people and Japanese entrepreneurs are a little bit afraid of standing up and talking in public...we need to change the social sentiment of Japan not just for entrepreneurs, but for all those who want to stand up and speak out,” Mikitani said in a speech at the event. (Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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