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Melanie Brock listed on Japanese company board

Mon, Jun 24, 6:41pm by Staff Writer

Australian businesswoman Melanie Brock has achieved a rare double, becoming one of the few foreigners, and even fewer women, appointed to a listed company board in Japan.

Ms Brock became a non-executive director of the Tokyo-listed Sega Sammy Holdings at its annual meeting on Friday, the Australian Financial Review reports.

The video game maker and casino operator joins a small but growing number of traditionally insular Japanese companies that have brought in foreigners at the highest level of their business.

Ms Brock, who has lived and worked in Japan for 30 years, has been a champion for women in business and in recent years has advised Macquarie Group, Crown Resorts and John Wylie’s Tanara Capital.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the board and look forward to working with them on diversity, sustainable development and new areas of business,” she said from Tokyo.

In addition to well-known games like Sonic the Hedgehog, the company makes and markets Pachinko machines, which are popular in arcades across Japan, and is a shareholder in a South Korean casino.

Its biggest growth opportunity is potentially winning one of Japan’s highly sought after casino licences, which are due to be awarded in the next 18 months.

Ms Brock is a fluent Japanese speaker who first visited Japan in 1982 as an exchange student.

Former Rio Tinto boss, Sam Walsh, who is a non-executive director at trading house Mitsui & Co, is the other Australian on a listed company board in Japan.

Push for independent people on Japanese boards

“There is a real move to get more genuinely independent people onto company boards in Japan,” said Bruce Miller, Australia’s former ambassador to Tokyo.

“This is partly a function of stricter corporate governance rules introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015, but at the same time boards are seeing value in this.”

Mr Miller said the push for more foreign directors reflected the latest wave of Japanese outbound investment, which was going into the services sector, rather than traditional areas like extractive industries.

In Australia, this has seen Toll Holdings, TAL Life, MLC and most recently, the Commonwealth Bank’s asset management business, Colonial First State, taken over by Japanese firms.

“It’s important to have serious people on boards who not only understand Japan but understand the wider world,” said Mr Miller, who has had a 40-year association with Japan and previously headed Australia’s Office of National Assessments.

Since retiring in late 2017, Mr Miller has benefited from the push for greater foreign expertise at the upper levels of corporate Japan, taking up a board position at TAL Life and as an international adviser with its parent company, Dai-ichi Life of Japan.

Osaka will be the home of Japan’s first IR

The Japanese city of Osaka is in the box seat to be the first to develop an integrated resort in the country, according to Forbes.

None of Japan’s other larger metropolitan areas have entered the competition for an integrated resort licence, so Osaka stands alone.

Under the licencing process, local jurisdictions will nominate a single consortium for the national government to consider for a licence.

It is now imperative for casino operators and their partners to be able to convince local authorities that they are their best choices.

As Osaka launches its selection process, expect extraordinary competition among at least a half-dozen of the biggest names in gaming, and in this beauty contest, second place won’t even get a bouquet.

“For a successful development, you need a number of things to align: a sufficient population base, including tourists, to feed customers, infrastructure and political support,” MGM Japan CEO Ed Bowers says.

“Osaka has consistently said it wanted integrated resorts. In all jurisdictions across the world, if you don’t get political support, it is extremely difficult for IR development to be successful,” he said.

In January, MGM declared as “Osaka First” strategy and in March, confirmed a partnership with Japanese financial services giant Orix.

The Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan dwarfs other metropolitan areas with 37 million people, nearly 30 per cent of Japan’s 126 million residents.

But Tokyo remains preoccupied with next year’s Olympics and Yokohama has a festering rift between port operators opposing an integrated resort on Yamashita Pier, with some business leaders supporting an integrated resort.

Kansai region, including Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Wakayama has 19 million people, 15 per cent of Japan’s population.

The next largest metropolitan areas, centering on auto manufacturing hub Nagoya, with just over 9 million people is not expected to seek an integrated resort.

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