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Scandal-hit Japanese start-up Eneres says approached for equity tie

Troubled Japanese start-up Eneres Co Ltd has been approached by companies interested in an equity tie-up and is actively considering the proposals, its president and CEO Norio Murakami told Reuters. Murakami, a former president of Google Japan brought in to drive reforms at the company, also said he has a chronic illness and is under medical supervision, at a time when his role in the turnaround is seen as crucial.

Eneres was set up to take advantage of planned electricity market reforms, but an accounting scandal, including a third-party investigation that found numerous cases of inappropriate accounting and lack of internal controls, saw the stock fall some 80 percent since the peak in January last year.

Its stock rose sharply after Murakami was named president in December and after he outlined a reform plan for the company in February.

"We are getting 'love calls' from companies which don't want to move into the energy market from scratch and think it would be easier to team up with us," Murakami said. He declined to give details.

The company's troubles highlighted the challenges facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to reform Japanese corporate governance and attract foreign capital to jump-start a long-stagnant economy.

Those reforms include plans to open the power generation and transmission market, long dominated by a small group of regional monopolies, to outside players.

Murakami said an equity tie-up would help Eneres reduce the influence of Motohide Ikeda, its founder and former president who resigned in the wake of the investigation. Ikeda and his wife hold nearly half of Eneres shares.

While Murakami said he was at Eneres for the long haul, he acknowledged that he suffers from a disease which effects connective tissue supporting organs and other parts of the body. His doctors have told him to avoid stress and fatigue, he said.

Copyright Reuters, 2015