Toshiba shares jump after accounting probe details revealed

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Toshiba's sharp share rise came after a report spelling out the firm's wrongdoings, easing a sense of uncertainty after the firm withdrew in May its earnings forecasts

Toshiba's sharp share rise came after a report spelling out the firm's wrongdoings, easing a sense of uncertainty after the firm withdrew in May its earnings forecasts (AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno )

Tokyo (AFP) - Toshiba shares jumped Tuesday as an independent report ended months of uncertainty about accounting problems at one of Japan's best-known firms, with top executives expected to resign over the affair.

In a stinging indictment, the report said managers were involved in "systematically" inflating profits by $1.2 billion over several years, in one of the most damaging accounting scandals to hit Japan in recent years.

Toshiba's Tokyo-listed shares jumped 5.78 percent to 398.6 yen ($3.20) at the start, before settling back to sit 4.91 percent higher in afternoon trading.

Current president Hisao Tanaka and his predecessor are both expected to resign over the profit-padding after investigators uncovered irregularities stretching back to 2008.

The company-hired panel, headed by a former Tokyo prosecutor, painted the picture of a corporate culture where underlings could not challenge powerful bosses who were intent on boosting profits at almost any cost.

"Inappropriate accounting was systematically carried out as a result of management decisions... betraying the trust of many stakeholders," according to a summary of the report released by the firm late Monday.

"Toshiba had a corporate culture in which management decisions could not be challenged," it added, ahead of the release of the full report on Tuesday afternoon.

Analysts said the share price jump was the result of some investors buying back into the battered stock, which has lost more than 20 percent since May.

"The numbers are out and investors have no further reasons to sell for the moment, so we are seeing some repurchasing momentum," Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management, told Bloomberg News.

"There is no question that the current management will have to change... But it's difficult to change the company culture."

The scandal risked further fallout, including lawsuits, but was unlikely to bring one of Japan Inc.'s giants to its knees, said SMBC Nikko analyst Yutaka Ban.

"While the profit downgrade isn't a small amount of money, it should not significantly harm the company's credit strength," Ban said.

- 'Inflate profits' -

Tanaka is reportedly expected to resign on Tuesday over the scandal, while Norio Sasaki, who served as Toshiba president between June 2009 and June 2013 -- covering most of the period during which the company inflated the profits -- is also expected to step down.

Economy minister Akira Amari said Sasaki had telephoned him early Tuesday to say he was quitting later in the day, but Toshiba declined to comment until this afternoon's press briefing.

The findings drew a rebuke from finance minister Taro Aso who called the affair "woefully regrettable".

"This could damage the credibility of the Japanese market," he warned.

The embarrassing findings come less than two months after the country adopted a long-awaited corporate governance code that backers hoped would usher in a new era of transparency for shareholders in Japanese firms.

Toshiba's stock had dropped more than 20 percent since May, when Toshiba warned over the ballooning accounting "irregularities" and yanked its earnings forecast -- a 120 billion yen net profit on sales of 6.7 trillion yen -- for the past fiscal year.

Toshiba's accounting scandal began when securities regulators uncovered irregularities as they probed the company's balance sheet earlier this year.

The findings mean Toshiba will have to restate its profits by 151.8 billion yen for the period between April 2008 and March 2014. It is unclear whether it will affect the fiscal year ending March 2015.

"In some cases top management and division leaders appeared to have shared a common objective to inflate profits," the panel said.

"Employees were pressured into inappropriate accounting by postponing loss reports or moving certain costs into later years."

Best known for its televisions and electronics, including the world's first laptop personal computer and DVD player, Toshiba has more than 200,000 employees globally and also operates in power transmission and medical equipment.

Among the divisions affected by the inflated profits are the infrastructure, audio-visual and semiconductor businesses, the summary said.