Chances of Hyundai Motor winning Elliott in proxy war rises due to backing of ISS

2019.03.12 16:06:18 | 2019.03.12 16:18:17

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Hyundai Motor. Co. has a greater chance of winning a proxy contest with Elliott Management in next week’s shareholders’ meeting over dividend policy by securing backing from the world’s two most prominent advisers to institutional players.

Top proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) became the latest to give support to Hyundai Motor, fighting back Elliott demanding 4.5 trillion won ($3.98 billion) in one-time payouts to shareholders.

Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis announced last month that Elliott in January had demanded 21,967 won per share for the automaker and 26,399 won per share for the auto parts maker in dividend payouts, which would amount to 5.8 trillion won and 2.5 trillion won, respectively. It is five to six times greater than the dividends of 4,000 won per share suggested by the two companies. The combined 8.3 trillion won in dividends asked by the U.S. activist hedge fund is also four times the car maker’s net profit of 1.64 trillion won last year.

ISS said such a lavish dividend payment would hinder Hyundai Motor’s future business and investment in research and development. Another globally prominent proxy adviser Glass Lewis last week also advised against Elliott’s idea of giving out a large one-time dividend payout, saying that the automaker needs to invest in R&D and future business.

The Korean carmaker promised last week that it would ramp up its R&D spending to 45.3 trillion won over the next five years by using its cash reserves to enhance global competitiveness in the future car market.

However, ISS supported two of the three candidates for independent directors picked by Elliott – John Y. Liu and Robert Randall MacEwen, and also favored Elliott’s two nominees for the board of Hyundai Mobis.

Market analysts believed that the Korean auto giant has received great support from the proxy advisers for the upcoming shareholders’ meeting set for March 22, because many foreign shareholders are likely to follow the recommendation of the powerful advisory firms. ISS is the world’s leading adviser with a market share of 60 percent, and Glass Lewis is the second biggest with a 20 percent market share.

By Han Woo-ram and Choi Mira

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