News about Sharp Corp.--leaked in dibs and drabs to the Japanese media over the past 12 months--tells us two things about the ailing company: Sharp is desperate for any “positive” signs of investment interest; and it’s too eager to leak potential good news to the media even before a deal is consummated.
Reporters are conditioned to move fast on a story, to beat the other guy to breaking news. So punching holes in the corporate wall, to find willing sources, is part of the job description.
But even the most eager cub reporter grows skeptical of the over-leaky company--eventually. The truth behind all the juicy but shaky scoops is that, absent the strong leadership that enforces company-wide confidentiality, news about half-baked deals will always come out–after which it will have to be pulled back.
Which begs the 64-thousand-yen question: Who’s really in charge of Sharp now?
The word on street in Tokyo is that Mikio Katayama, a former Sharp president who was replaced by Takashi Okuda last year and is now the company chairman, is traveling the world pitching deals. He’s willing to take credit for any potential arrangements he can report back home. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Okuda (right) appears to be uniquely ineffectual in dealing with bureaucrats and the banking community to forge a real plan to save the company.
When more than one person plays president, the company tends to be ripe for unauthorized leaks that come out in tempting but frustrating bits and pieces.
Last mid-November, practically every online news outlet reported that “Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc. are in talks to jointly invest about 30 billion yen ($378 million) in debt-stricken Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp Corp.” After that report, Sharp shares jumped 11 percent in a flat overall market.
Did it really happen? Not exactly.
Early in December, it became known that Qualcomm actually made a deal to invest $120 million in Sharp. Sharp's shares rose 1.2 percent to 174 yen in Tokyo after the Nikkei, Japan’s economic newspaper business daily, reported the deal.