Shareholders of Toyota, the largest Japanese company and the biggest automaker in the world, have allowed the introduction of the controversial new class of shares on Tuesday during the carmaker’s annual meeting.
The new Model AA shares – dubbed after the first passenger car sold by the company – will draw in long-term investors, but they faced fierce backlash from foreign holdings as the new class is only available in Japan. Around 75 percent of shareholders voted for the new stock’s introduction – unlisted and retained for half a decade on a compulsory base – they can then be converted into common stock or resold back to Toyota for the asking price. “The approval rate is quite high,” commented Yo Ota, a corporate lawyer at Tokyo-based law firm Nishimura & Asahi. “There are very few types of equity instruments in Japan, so if this move leads to further diversification, that would be welcome.” The company claimed the corporate strategy needs long-term product planning and has devised the locked shares to increase its quota of retail investors committed to the strategy – as individual investors only make up 10.5 percent of the stock, below a 20 percent average for all Japanese companies listed on the stock exchange.
The controversy surrounding the listing would also act as a deterrent to other interested companies, according to analysts – as firms interested in developing a similar scheme would first need a great balance sheet. The automaker needed a two-thirds majority for the plan’s approval and the vote was seen close as foreign investors make up around 30 percent of the company’s shares.