Japan’s annual shareholders’ meeting season at the end of June went relatively smoothly for most companies, as their results had improved, in part due to the impact of a cheaper yen. Takeda was one of the exceptions, however, with the new President, Christophe Weber, facing protests from a 100 or so shareholders, more than half of whom were ex-Takeda employees.
Their 7 point letter claimed that the acquisition of Nycomed and Millennium Pharmaceuticals were failures, that the way Takeda was globalizing and the low morale of scientists in Japan called into question management effectiveness, that the way Weber was appointed as Hasegawa’s successor was questionable, that the focus on the executive management committee, largely peopled by “foreigners” was causing the board meetings to become a mere formality, that it was not clear why high dividends should be paid out when the financials were worsening, and finally that responsibility was not clear for the fine of $6bn in the US for concealing the risks for Actos, a diabetes drug.
Diamond Online analyses why Takeda is being criticised “from within”. Takeda was at a high point in 2006, but in decline since then, as four of its blockbuster drugs came off patent in the US. The search for new hit drugs led down the path of M&A. Takeda was the dominant Osaka pharmaceutical company, squaring up against Sankyo the Tokyo-based pharmaceutical giant. Behind the scenes, however, there were merger talks between the two. In the end Sankyo chose to team up with Daiichi.
So Takeda embarked on overseas acquisitions – Denmark’s Novo Nordisk and then Millennium in the USA in 2008, and finaly Nycomed in 2011. These acquisitions required substantial post merger restructuring, however there was noone capable of this in Takeda. The management layer below Hasegawa was “thin” ( a problem common to many Japanese companies, who cut back hiring of that cohort during the first oil shock). Hasegawa appeared isolated, and reliant on foreign executives and Japanese executives who had worked in foreign companies (in other words, not including the indigenous Japanese within Takeda)
Weber’s recent interview in the Japan Times, in which he emphasises that Takeda will remain “Japanese” is an attempt to reassure the Takeda founding family and domestic Japanese management, but whether an interview in English in Japan Times (an English language daily) is sufficient is doubtful. A charm offensive on the Nikkei group of publications might be advisable.
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