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Toshiba plans to split into three after wave of scandals
12 November 2021, 5:18 PM

Toshiba Corp outlined plans on Friday to split into three companies in an attempt to appease activist shareholders calling for a radical overhaul of the Japanese conglomerate after years of scandals.

A rare move in a country dominated by conglomerates, Toshiba’s breakup comes the same week U.S. industrial powerhouse General Electric called time on its sprawling empire and Johnson & Johnson announced it was splitting up too.

Founded in 1875, Toshiba plans to house its energy and infrastructure divisions in one company while its hard disk drives and power semiconductor businesses will form the backbone of another. A third will manage Toshiba’s stake in flash-memory chip company Kioxia Holdings and other assets.

The plan, borne of a five-month strategic review undertaken after a highly damaging corporate governance scandal, is partly designed to encourage activist shareholders to sell their stakes, sources with knowledge of the matter have said.

A breakup, however, runs counter to calls by activist investors for Toshiba to be taken private and some major shareholders said the plan may struggle to get through an extraordinary general meeting due to be held by March.

The overhaul was announced after markets in Japan had closed but the company’s Frankfurt-listed shares fell 4% at the open on Friday highlighting investor disappointment. The shares later recovered slightly in very low volume.

Toshiba’s strategic review committee said the idea of going private had raised concerns internally about the impact on its businesses and staff retention while offers from private equity firms were not compelling relative to market expectations.

Private equity firms had also conveyed concerns about completing a deal due to possible conflicts with Japan’s national security law and potential opposition from antitrust regulators, the company said.

“After much discussion, we reached the conclusion that this strategic reorganisation was the best option,” Chief Executive Satoshi Tsunakawa told a news conference.

CRISIS TO CRISIS

He said Toshiba, which hopes to complete the overhaul in two years, would have chosen to split up regardless of the presence of activist shareholders and that Japan’s powerful trade ministry had not voiced objections to the plan.

One major Toshiba shareholder said other investors might still consider nominating a new board director to push though an auction process.

“The option to take Toshiba private can create more value in a shorter period of time than the break-up,” the shareholder said.

A portfolio manager at an activist fund with Toshiba shares said the plan was disappointing and unlikely to be voted through at the extraordinary general meeting the company plans to hold by March.

“The activists have two options now: you can sell and go away and come back in two years time or you can buy more shares and fight this thing at the EGM. I’m going to go and think about what to do,” said the manager, who declined to be identified.

The 146-year-old conglomerate has lurched from crisis to crisis since an accounting scandal in 2015.

Two years later, it secured a $5.4 billion cash injection from more than 30 overseas investors that helped avoid a delisting but brought in activist shareholders including Elliott Management, Third Point and Farallon.

Tension between management and overseas shareholders has dominated headlines since then. In June, an explosive shareholder-commissioned investigation concluded that Toshiba had colluded with Japan’s trade ministry to block investors from gaining influence at last year’s shareholders meeting.

‘EXCESSIVE CAUTIOUSNESS’

Earlier on Friday, Toshiba released a separately commissioned report that found executives, including its former chief executive, had behaved unethically but not illegally.

It said Toshiba was overly dependent on the trade ministry and problems had also been caused by its “excessive cautiousness” towards foreign funds and an unwillingness to develop a sound relationship with them.

Under the overhaul, Toshiba aims to return 100 billion yen ($875 million) to shareholders in the next two financial years.

It also said it intended to “monetize” its Kioxia shares and return the net proceeds in full to shareholders as soon as practicable, a change from a previous plan to return only a majority of the proceeds.

Other assets that will continue to be held by Toshiba include its stake in Toshiba Tec Corp, which makes printing and retail information systems.

Toshiba plans to complete the overhaul by March 2024.

A trade ministry official said the government would be interested in how the breakup affects Toshiba’s businesses related to national security, which include radar systems.

Toshiba also reported on Friday that its second-quarter operating profit roughly doubled to 30.4 billion yen ($267 million) as it recovered from a slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It makes sense to split if the valuation of a highly competitive business is hindered by other businesses,” said Fumio Matsumoto, chief strategist at Okasan Securities.

“But if there isn’t such a business, the breakup just creates three lacklustre midsize companies.”

Dispelling the myth of De Klerk as a peacemaker and co-liberator
12 November 2021, 5:16 PM

On November 11, 2021, Apartheid South Africa’s last president, FW de Klerk died. The distorted history of South Africa peddled by mainstream media tells us that he freed Nelson Mandela from prison and other political activists; unbanned liberation movements and initiated South Africa’s “Road to Democracy” from the goodness of his heart. I read, with great disappointment, media headlines, both local and abroad, which referred to de Klerk as the “man who freed Nelson Mandela”. This popular narrative should be rejected as it portrays de Klerk as a man with a polarizing or “uneven legacy” as articulated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

De Klerk did not have a polarizing legacy. He had one legacy. And that of apartheid president.

It was people like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – also dubbed ‘The Mother of the Nation’ – who was the ground force that kept black people together to fight and resist the segregationist government and its policies, and gave hope in times of despair; the philosophical teachings of Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe inspiring students, the working class, and the churches under the umbrella of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and, by extension, the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) to ensure that South Africa is ungovernable; longtime African National Congress (ANC) President, Oliver Tambo who mobilized the international community, through the application of Track II diplomacy to get the United Nations to declare apartheid in South Africa as “crime against humanity”; and the end of the Cold War, which meant that the National Party (NP) could no longer rely on western powers for support as the “threat of Communism” had relinquished. All these led to the isolation of a bankrupt SA by the international community to force de Klerk’s hand in giving in to the demands of the Africans: unconditional participation in the body politic of South Africa. It was inevitable. If it was not de Klerk, it was going to be someone else. What he did was no act of generosity. Apartheid was no longer sustainable and he had no choice.

It can be argued that by the time PW Botha stepped down to make way for his successor, de Klerk, the NP government in South Africa knew that its time was up and that in the not-so-distant future, there would be a “one man, one vote” as prophesied by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. And that de Klerk’s job was less to do with maintaining minority rule in South Africa and more to do with ensuring a pragmatic end to apartheid to protect the interests of “his people” in the “new” South Africa. That was his position within the NP and the attitude they carried to the negotiations – and if South Africa is anything to go by today (with black unemployment, inequality and ‘White Monopoly Capital’), he and the NP got what they wanted.

One of the many indictments on the internationally revered Nelson Mandela’s legacy was accepting a Noble Peace Prize with de Klerk, the same man who, by design or by default, colluded with a “third force” to go on a bloodbath in South Africa in the latter days of apartheid in an attempt to delay SA’s date with democracy. Evidently demonstrating that black South Africans forgave people who never asked for forgiveness and never saw anything wrong with apartheid. He was an un-noble man who committed crimes against humanity and destroyed the lives of black South Africans, a proud Afrikaner who, in the latter days of his life, said, “apartheid was not a crime against humanity”.

In the book, The Trial of Cecil John Rhodes, set in After Africa, were imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes is held accountable for his actions, Professor Adekeye Adebajo on Nelson Mandela linking his name to that of Rhodes through the establishment of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, as Patrice Lumumba, writes, “Mandela effectively rehabilitated a grotesque imperialist of the nineteenth century… Mr Mandela has surely taken the African concept of Ubuntu too far in rehabilitating an evil figure that Africans really should have condemned to the pit latrine of history”. And this is exactly what Madiba did when shared the Noble Peace Prize with De Klerk.

It is important to dispel the unfounded and baseless notion that the legacy of de Klerk is that of a peacemaker and co-liberator or polarized, as some have claimed. He was not! Neither was his legacy. His colleagues from the NP appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to testify and, indeed, acknowledge their roles in the gross human rights violations of the 1990s. De Klerk, contrastingly, failed to admit responsibility. He failed to see apartheid for what it really was: a crime against humanity.

His terrible legacy can never be whitewashed. The spatial injustice that continues to keep black people away from economic activity to enforce structural inequality is his legacy; the Boipatong Massacre that left 45 people dead, is his legacy; he sat on the apartheid’s Security Council that authorized the murder of the Cradock 4 activists; the bombing of the Khotso House, that is his legacy.

Proteas Cricket player, Quinton de Kock’s refusal to “take the knee” as a universal symbol of the fight against racism, is de Klerk’s legacy; the many skulls and bones that lie in unmarked graves, is De Klerk’s legacy.

Despite all his atrocities, he lived and died without being held accountable for all he did. The ANC-led government has done little to make sure those who had a hand in apartheid atrocities were held to account. And this is largely due to the negotiated settlement, one which has led to the social structure of SA remaining the same.

Regardless of whether the democratic government recognizes him or not, fact remains that De Klerk was a colossus of apartheid – which was an extension of colonialism, slavery and exploitation of Africans under the premise that without Whites, Africa and her people would only but dream of civilization – a view held by Helen Zille, who is the de facto leader of the Democratic Alliance – the prodigal son of the NP in democratic SA.

Giving de Klerk credit for SA’s democratic transition is tantamount to celebrating a kidnapper for setting his hostages free. It is not my intention to dehumanize de Klerk, that would be un-African of me, considering that we don’t speak ill of the dead, besides, his legacy speaks for itself. Mine was to simply state his legacy for what it truly was. – By Vusi Gumbi

Vusi Gumbi is a Master’s candidate in Politics at the University of Johannesburg and a Research Assistant at the Institute of Pan African Thought and Conversation.

Medvedev says double triumph late last year laid platform for rise
12 November 2021, 4:57 PM

Back-to-back triumphs at the Paris Masters and ATP Finals last year convinced Daniil Medvedev that he belongs among the world’s best, the Russian said on Friday as he prepares to defend his title in the season finale.

The 25-year-old used the platform for a superb 2021 in which he made his breakthrough on the grandest stage, winning a first major at the US Open where he beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the final to deny the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.

World number two Medvedev lost to Djokovic in the Paris Masters title clash last Sunday and will look to continue their intriguing rivalry at the ATP Finals in Turin.

“Coming into Paris last year I was feeling completely out of shape and out of confidence,” Medvedev told reporters. “I wasn’t sure what I could achieve in the last two tournaments and then I found my confidence, won both. In the ATP finals I managed to beat Novak, Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

“Three tough matches, so it was amazing… After you achieve it, you’re back… you say ‘OK I’m still able to do it’ because we had the pandemic where everybody didn’t play for a long time. I had problems with my body, so coming back wasn’t easy.

“There was this ‘down moment’ where I wasn’t sure about myself and these two tournaments brought back the confidence… made me sure that I’d be able to beat the best players in the world. That’s what you have to know to be one of them.”

Medvedev opens the singles action on Sunday against Polish debutant Hubert Hurkacz and will meet Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini in the Red Group.

COVID-19’s epicentre again: Europe faces fresh reckoning
12 November 2021, 4:06 PM

Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic again, prompting some governments to consider re-imposing unpopular lockdowns in the run-up to Christmas and stirring debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19.

Europe accounts for more than half of the average 7-day infections globally and about half of latest deaths, according to a Reuters tally, the highest levels since April last year when the virus was at its initial peak in Italy.

The fresh concerns come as successful inoculation campaigns have plateaued ahead of the winter months and flu season.

About 65% of the population of the European Economic Area (EEA) – which includes the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – have received two doses, according to EU data, but the pace has slowed in recent months.

Take-up in southern European countries is around 80%, but hesitancy has hampered rollout in central and eastern Europe and Russia, leading to outbreaks that could overwhelm healthcare.

Germany, France and the Netherlands are also experiencing a surge in infections, showing the challenge even for governments with high acceptance rates.

To be sure, hospitalisations and deaths are much lower than a year ago and big variations by country in use of vaccines and boosters as well as measures like social distancing make it hard to draw conclusions for the whole region.

‘DON’T TAKE EYE OFF THE BALL’

But a combination of low vaccine take-up in some parts, waning immunity among those inoculated early and complacency about masks and distancing as governments relaxed curbs over the summer are likely to blame, virologists and public health experts told Reuters.

“If there’s one thing to learn from this it’s not to take your eye off the ball,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School in the UK.

The World Health Organisation’s report for the week to November 7 showed that Europe, including Russia, was the only region to record a rise in cases, up 7%, while other areas reported declines or stable trends.

Similarly, it reported a 10% increase in deaths, while other regions reported declines.

Governments and companies are worried the prolonged pandemic will derail a fragile economic recovery, and a slew of countries are taking measures to curb the spread.

In the Netherlands, bars and restaurants will close early and sporting events will be held without audiences under a three-week partial lockdown that will be Western Europe’s first since the summer and that is expected to be announced on Friday evening.

Germany will reintroduce free COVID-19 tests from Saturday, acting health minister Jens Spahn said on Friday. A draft law in Germany would allow for measures such as compulsory face masks and social distancing in public spaces to continue to be enforced until next March.

Austria’s government is likely to decide on Sunday to impose a lockdown on people who are not vaccinated, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday.

BOOSTER SHOTS

Most EU countries are deploying extra shots to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, but expanding vaccination to more of the population should be a priority to avoid steps like lockdown, scientists said.

“The real urgency is to widen the pool of vaccinated people as much as possible,” said Carlo Federico Perno, head of microbiology and immunology diagnostics at Rome’s Bambino Gesù Hospital.

The EU’s medicines regulator is also evaluating the use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine in 5 to 11-year-olds.

Norway will offer a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to everyone aged 18 and older and will give municipalities the option of using digital “corona passes”, the government said on Friday. Norway has so far given a third dose only to those aged 65 and older.

From December 1, Italy will also offer the third dose to people over 40.

“This (outbreak) will probably make the EU look at booster doses and say ‘we do need them pronto’,” said Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton.

CENTRAL, EASTERN EUROPE

Still struggling to ramp up shots, central and eastern European governments have had to take drastic action.

Latvia, one of the least vaccinated countries in the EU, imposed a four-week lockdown in mid-October.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia have also tightened restrictions. The Czech cabinet will consider on Friday whether fresh measures are needed.

Vaccines alone are not the silver bullet to defeat the pandemic in the long term, virologists say.

Several pointed to Israel as an example of good practice: in addition to inoculations, it has reinforced mask wearing and introduced vaccine passports after cases spiked a few months ago.

Measures such as spacing, masks and vaccine mandates for indoor venues are essential, said Antonella Viola, professor of immunology at Italy’s University of Padua.

“If one of these two things is lacking, we see situations such as we are seeing in many European countries these days.”

Trans-Tasman tussle to determine new T20 world champions
12 November 2021, 3:18 PM

A trans-Tasman scrap will determine 20-overs cricket’s new world champions on Sunday and there is little to choose between Australia and New Zealand after their near-identical progress to the summit clash in Dubai.

Both made the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup as the second team from their respective groups and then came into their own to knock out the tournament’s two most dominating teams.

The last four deliveries of Australia’s five-wicket victory against Pakistan on Thursday contained more drama than the tournament’s entire Super 12 stage.

Matthew Wade was first dropped in the deep before he smacked three consecutive sixes to successfully complete Australia’s nervy chase against the tournament’s only hitherto unbeaten team.

Jimmy Neesham and Daryl Mitchell had pulled off something similar when New Zealand humbled Group I leaders England in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi.

Sunday’s clash will be a rematch of the 2015 final of the 50-overs World Cup and Australia, the most successful ODI team, will hope to win the only major limited-overs global trophy that has eluded them so far.

“We’ve got such a rich history and it would be nice to add this piece to the puzzle that’s for sure,” Australia coach Justin Langer said on Friday.

The task would not be easy against a New Zealand side recognised as the best cross-format team in international cricket.

“I think that the way New Zealand cricket have gone about their business for the last few years has been outstanding,” said Langer.

“So we’re going to have to be at our best, like we have been throughout this tournament, to beat New Zealand.”

Australia will need their top order to fire against New Zealand’s disciplined attack and persist with four specialist bowlers.

For reigning world test champions New Zealand, the incentive will be to triumph in another format, especially after their heart-breaking loss to England on boundary countback in the tied 2019 50-over World Cup final.

They will bring back Tim Seifert to replace Devon Conway, who has been thrown out of action with a hand injury.

Unlike most other teams who rely on a handful of match-winners, New Zealand’s ability to hunt as a pack has been their strength.

Coach Gary Stead they would have to be on their toes against Australia.

“They’ve got a bunch of guys who are real match-winners,” Stead said.

“We’re going to have to make sure our planning and scouting is right on point and that we’ve got really clear plans for all of our players because they can rip a game open pretty quickly as well.”

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