Activist investor ValueAct has $612 million stake in Japan's Olympus

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. hedge fund ValueAct Capital has become a major shareholder in Japanese medical equipment and camera maker Olympus Corp 7733.T with a 5.04 percent stake that is worth around $612 million at current shares prices.

The stake hike comes at a time when activist investment is gaining momentum in Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocating shareholders raise issues and have constructive dialogue with firms to strengthen corporate governance.

ValueAct said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that it was buying the Olympus shares as an investment, saying it would give company management advice or make important proposals depending on circumstances.

“Olympus has an exceptional business model, market share, technology leadership and emerging markets presence in the global medical device industry,” Rob Hale, partner at ValueAct, said in a statement.

“We think it’s an ideal company for our first investment in Japan. We look forward to working with the Olympus team,” he said.

Olympus, in a statement, said it would “continue to hold an active dialogue (with ValueAct) as one of many shareholders and foster mutual understanding over our growth strategy”.

An Olympus spokesman declined to comment any further when contacted by Reuters.

Olympus shares closed at 3,860 yen on Thursday.

ValueAct's stake nearly matches the 5.05 percent stake owned as of the end of March by Sony Corp 6758.T, which was Olympus' third-largest shareholder at the time.

The filing shows ValueAct has been gradually building up its stake in Olympus over the past two months, reaching a mandatory public disclosure of ownership of over 5 percent.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bangalore; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Edmund Blair