US private equity firm Steel Partners is lobbying Sapporo Holdings shareholders to reject a proposed 'advance warning system' against potential takeover bids for the Japanese company.

The US company today (12 March) started a campaign recommending shareholders vote against the proposal, which requires any company hoping to acquire 20% or more of the voting rights in Sapporo to submit a report detailing the purpose of the bid. Failure to do so would allow Sapporo to issue new shares to make the bid less attractive.

Shareholders are set to vote on the proposal, which was approved by Sapporo's directors last month, at the annual general meeting on 29 March.

"The company's (Sapporo's) proposed new advance warning system is not in the best interests of the stakeholders of the company as a whole," Steel Partners said. "This advance warning system would adversely affect shareholder value and insulate the company's board from the fundamental accountability to shareholders by providing the board with enhanced ability to delay or prevent takeover bids or tender offers, even when shareholders might favourably view such bids."

Shareholders have been asked to reject the motion to approve the new advance warning system "so that shareholders have the chance to decide for themselves whether to accept any offers for their shares in the company".

Last month, Steel Partners proposed a plan to raise its stake in Sapporo from 17.52% to 66.6%, although it also indicated that it may sell its shares should an attractive offer emerge.

Separately, Sapporo today posted a 10% rise in its domestic beer and 'third-category' beer sales for the month of February. The increase, Sapporo's first in ten months, was credited to the roll-out of a new third-category beer last month.