TCI Launches New Activist Campaign In Japan

Jun 10 2011 | 12:02pm ET

Bowed but apparently unbroken, The Children's Investment Fund has launched a new activist campaign in Japan.

The London-based firm abandoned its activism in Asia two years ago, closing its office in Hong Kong and bidding farewell to its top executive in the region, John Ho. TCI—which had lost much of its appetite for activism altogether, and not just in Asia—had suffered several high-profile defeats, most notable in its battle with Japan's Electric Power Development Co.

Now, TCI has set its sights on Japan Tobacco, buying a 1% stake in the company. The hedge fund then took aim at Japan's finance ministry, which owns more than half of JT, to complain about the way the company is run.

TCI said that JT could double its stock price if it managed capital more efficiently. The hedge fund hopes that a cash-strapped Japanese government will be amenable to such an argument.

Some observers think that TCI will have no better luck this time around.

"They are going after the same people that will never listen," one investor in Japan told the Financial Times. Toshiaki Oguchi of Governance for Owners Japan concurred.

"It's not what they say, but the way they say it that was not accepted in Japan," he told the FT. "So, why are they doing it again?"

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