August 29, 2019 / 7:55 AM / 24 days ago

Sony in $760 million Olympus stake sale after investor Loeb's prodding

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp (6758.T) is selling its 5% stake in Olympus Corp (7733.T) back to the Japanese medical equipment maker for 80.4 billion yen ($762.88 million), a move that Daniel Loeb’s activist hedge fund Third Point LLC had called for.

FILE PHOTO - A man passes a logo of Olympus Corp outside the company's showroom in Tokyo December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

This is the first strategic move Sony has made that is in line with U.S.-based Third Point’s proposals since Loeb, one of the world’s highest-profile activist investors, revealed earlier this year he was building a stake again in the company.

A Sony spokeswoman said the sale was not in response to demand by specific shareholders, adding that the company is still reviewing Third Point’s proposals.

Sony will sell 68.9 million Olympus shares at Thursday’s closing price of 1,165 yen by participating in Olympus’ share buyback plan.

Sony bought 11.5% of Olympus in 2012-13, paying 50 billion yen in a much-needed cash injection for the latter after an accounting scandal sent Olympus’ share price plummeting. Sony later halved its stake to finance its own restructuring.

The companies have developed high-definition surgical endoscopes and microscopes through a medical equipment joint venture established in 2013.

Sony said in a statement it decided to sell “considering that the initial purpose of the capital alliance to establish collaboration between Sony and Olympus has been accomplished and after reviewing the rationale for owning the Olympus shares.”

Loeb has called on Sony to spin off its semiconductor business and sell off stakes in Sony Financial, Spotify and other non-core assets, in order to position itself as a leading global entertainment company.

“Sony’s valuation discount is attributable primarily to portfolio complexity, which will be a permanent problem unless it is decisively addressed,” Third Point said in a letter to investors in June.

Shares of Sony have risen 23% since early April, when Reuters reported that Loeb was building a stake in the company to push for change. The effort marks the second time in six years that Loeb has targeted Sony.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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