Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

The biggest single shareholder in Japan Airlines (JAL) has called for top management resignations following the airline's drop in profit and turnover in recent years.

Eitaro Itoyama who owns about 4% of the airline, has demanded that the company's board of directors and president Isao Kaneko should take responsibility for the company's financial state and quit. JAL has accumulated net group losses of ´138 billion ($1.2 billion) over the past five years, and net income has dropped by 9% in the last six months.

JAL says former parliamentarian Itoyama "has made no formal demands" to the company, choosing instead to talk directly to the international press.

Senior airline industry sources say JAL is unlikely to take Itoyama's demands seriously because he has a reputation in Japan as a "greenmailer", buying large stakes in companies and then pushing them to buy the stock back at higher prices. He has no executive position in JAL.

Itoyama has previously demanded to be appointed honorary chairman of the airline, and has threatened to sell his shares to foreign buyers if the company does not meet his demands. He has also claimed responsibility for the resignations of former JAL president Akira Kondo and chairman Susumu Yamaji over losses in the company's hotel and resort business - a claim the airline rejects.

JAL says it is heading for a profit of some ´10 billion for the fiscal year ending in March, which would allow it to pay dividends to shareholders for the first time in six years. "For the time being, our main concern is fixing our financial foundation, and we are having to put the brakes on investment over the next three to four years," says the airline.

Itoyama has also attacked recent fare cuts introduced by JAL in response to the emergence of new domestic start-ups Air Do and Skymark Airlines, a move now being copied by All Nippon Airlines.

Source: Flight International