Bankrupt Takata faces angry shareholders

A shareholder (third from right) being interviewed outside the venue of Takata's shareholders' meeting in Tokyo yesterday, a day after the firm filed for bankruptcy protection.
A shareholder (third from right) being interviewed outside the venue of Takata's shareholders' meeting in Tokyo yesterday, a day after the firm filed for bankruptcy protection.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Investors express outrage at how auto parts giant handled crisis over airbag defect

TOKYO • Takata executives faced angry investors yesterday, after the company at the centre of the world's biggest auto safety recall filed for bankruptcy and said it was being bought by a US company.

The filing all but destroys any value left in the shares of the Japanese airbag maker, which will be yanked from the Tokyo stock exchange next month.

Many who attended the shareholders' meeting yesterday - Takata's last as a listed company - expressed outrage at how the auto parts giant handled the crisis over a defect in its airbags which has been blamed for at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries.

"Why couldn't they have addressed these issues faster, when the recalls first emerged back in 2008 and 2009?" said one 48-year-old investor outside the meeting, which was closed to the media.

On Monday, Takata announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection and would be bought by US auto parts maker Key Safety Systems, which is owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, for US$1.58 billion (S$2.2 billion).

The company's board and several other executives were reappointed at yesterday's meeting ahead of the ownership transfer.

Takata chief executive Shigehisa Takada, whose grandfather started the company in 1933 as a textile maker, has said that he will resign once the transition is completed.

  • 100m 

    Number of cars, including about 70 million in the United States, subject to the airbag recall.

    $12.4b

    Takata's liabilities are reportedly set to top this amount in what is the biggest bankruptcy filing for a Japanese manufacturer.

 
 

"I want to ask (Takada) how he feels about his responsibility" for the crisis, said 66-year-old investor Minoru Matsuo before attending the meeting.

Millions of airbags produced for some of the world's biggest automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, are being recalled because of the risk that they could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the vehicles' occupants.

Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the recall.

Takata, which is facing lawsuits and huge recall costs, has been accused of hiding the problem with its airbags for years.

"It was my mistake to have invested in this kind of company," said shareholder Hiroshige Kono.

"I worked for a food company and if a problem hits my firm, we would have immediately apologised, recalled our products and taken necessary measures" to prevent a repeat, he said.

"They (Takata) were just trying to get away with it, which made the problem even more serious."

The 75-year-old retiree added that yesterday's meeting was a vigil and Takata's July 27 delisting "will be the funeral".

"I paid a lot of condolence money," Mr Kono said.

Honda, a major Takata customer, first sounded the alarm about a possible problem in 2008.

But the scandal reached a peak only in 2014 when earlier deaths started getting more media attention and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration became involved in the ballooning recalls.

Takata has already agreed to pay a billion-dollar fine to settle with US safety regulators over its airbags.

But the company's liabilities are reportedly set to top 1 trillion yen (S$12.4 billion) in what is the biggest bankruptcy filing for a Japanese manufacturer.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'Bankrupt Takata faces angry shareholders'. Print Edition | Subscribe