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Japan considering lifting ban on fully-online shareholder meetings in COVID-19 era

Japan considering lifting ban on fully-online shareholder meetings in COVID-19 era

November 19, 2020

By Daniel Leussink and Takaya Yamaguchi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will consider allowing companies to hold annual general meetings completely online, a government panel tasked with drafting the country’s growth strategy said on Thursday.

The development comes as COVID-19 has spurred firms to increasingly organise online annual general meetings (AGM) alongside physical ones, which are still required by law in Japan.

The government will work with “a sense of speed” to bring about the regulatory change necessary to allow companies to hold AGM’s virtually only, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato, who heads the Growth Strategy Council, said at the end of the panel meeting.

Under existing regulations, firms have to set up a venue for an AGM, which most companies hold in June of each year, and cannot restrict entry to any shareholders who want to attend.

The Nikkei newspaper reported earlier on Thursday the government hopes to work out a policy for the law change before year-end, as it seeks to do away with the ban on holding AGM’s online only sometime next year.

The panel also discussed the need for raising the labour participation rate and labour productivity rate to boost economic growth, Kato said.

It also talked about the need for support to boost growth among small and mid-sized firms and to accelerate mergers and acquisitions between them, as more smaller firms are closing down.

“We’ll flexibly support small and mid-sized companies based on the conditions within industries and the spread of the coronavirus in regions,” Kato said.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink and Takaya Yamaguchi; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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