Mitsuboshi Case Leaves Poison Pill Doctrine Unresolved

Law on takeover defenses in Japan is unclear
by Stephen Givens

In a significant precedent that adds a missing piece or two to Japan’s wobbly and shifting poison pill doctrine, in late July the Supreme Court upheld decisions by the Osaka District Court and Osaka High Court that invalidated a poison pill hastily set up by target Mitsuboshi Corporation (TYO 5820) to fight off an investor group with shadowy China ties that had amassed a more than 20% stake quietly in the open market.

A Gloss on Last Year’s Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho Case

The facts in the Mitsuboshi decision are in many ways similar to those of the Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho (TKS) (TYO 6335) poison pill case decided in November 2021. In both cases investors with China ties quietly acquired a sizable stake in a small, obscure target that lacked a pre-existing poison pill.

In TKS, these facts proved an embarrassment to recent judicial iterations on the poison pill, which seemed to make shareholder ratification of a poison pill both a necessary and sufficient condition for validation. [See footnote #1.]  Applying the still-fresh shareholder ratification principle would have allowed Asia Development Corporation (ADC), the Chinese-controlled company that had already acquired 40% of TKS,