2021 High Conviction - Shinsei Bank

1.8k Views22 Dec 2020 16:49

In May of this year, Shinsei Bank (8303 JP) made an announcement that veteran Japan value/engagement investor Dalton Investments had proposed a measure for the AGM. Coming nine months after JC Flowers exited his position in a public offering, ably discussed by Mio Kato in Shinsei Bank Offering: Flowers in the Wind, and eleven months after a previous proposal by Dalton which garnered little more than 16% support, this year's proposal was to put Dalton CIO/CEO/head James Rosenwald on the board of Shinsei Bank so as to further his proposal to further align board compensation with shareholder interests, accelerate the exit of unprofitable positions and businesses, and execute a Very Large Buyback of ¥45 billion, so as to accelerate the return of public funds.

Management, as it is wont to do, objected.

The existing board objected suggesting that the board already had sufficient independent director majority (5 of 7 directors), adding the proposed slate had two women, and replacing one with Mr Rosenwald would not further the goal of a more diverse board. It also noted that the Bank had submitted a Revitalisation Plan ("Plan") to the Financial Services Agency ("FSA") pursuant to the Act on Emergency Measures for Early Strengthening of Financial Functions ("Early Strengthening Act") and the plan required seven directors, not eight, so adding Mr. Rosenwald to the existing slate was not appropriate. The board said that the goal of exiting marginally profitable businesses was indeed not a bad goal, but that in the time of covid-19, "we do not think that it is an appropriate company behavior to take such short-term profit enhancing measures for ourselves at least under the current situation."

The agenda item to elect Mr Rosenwald as a director received 161,736 votes FOR and 1,867,839 votes AGAINST for a success rate of 7.968%. That was pretty miserable.

Nevertheless, Shinsei Bank DID announce a Very Large Buyback on the same day that it announced the shareholder proposal, which was the same day as it announced earnings and the AGM agenda. The buyback announced then was to buy back up to 20.5mm shares for up to ¥20.5bn from 14 May to 31 March 2021. That was 8.88% of existing shares ex-Treasury shares. That was pretty big.

Through end-November, which is 71.4% of the buyback period elapsed, Shinsei had purchased 11.126mm shares (a bit more than half the max), spending ¥14.67bn, which was 71.5% of the funds allocated. They are on track to complete the amount (buying back less than 8.88%) by end-March.

This suggests ongoing market support for the shares, which is positive, but now we have a reason to think that the board could act differently next year and possibly approve a bigger, better buyback.

Discussion ensues below.

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