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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

HSBC activist investor lobbies shareholders ahead of meeting

HSBC activist investor lobbies shareholders ahead of meeting

An HSBC Holdings Plc shareholder in Hong Kong is lobbying institutional shareholders to vote in favor of a proposal to restructure the lender’s business at its annual general meeting on May 5.
The activist shareholder is seeking to put further pressure on the lender as a clash with its biggest shareholder Ping An Insurance Group Co. is becoming increasingly heated.

The meeting on May 5 in Birmingham will test investor support for efforts to boost dividends and seek more information on potentially restructuring the bank’s Asian operations.

Ken Lui, leader of the “Spin Off HSBC Asia Concern Group,” has hired Alliance Advisors, a firm specializing in shareholder engagement to help in identifying and contacting HSBC investors.

Lui said that Alliance Advisors has reached out to key institutional shareholders and he has set up meetings with six to seven of them, with others still being scheduled.

He had a zoom call with representatives from Ping An’s asset management team over the weekend, and they indicated they would support him, he said. Lui has also held a call with a US fund, managing $540 billion of assets, he said.

Ping An last week publicly called for the creation of “a separately listed Asia business headquartered in Hong Kong.” Michael Huang, chairman of Ping An Asset Management said they support “in principle” the two resolutions and hopes HSBC can be open to suggestions.

In addition to providing updates on a spin-off, Lui is also proposing that HSBC restore dividend payouts and commit to paying out at least $0.51 per share in dividends each year.

Lui said he holds about HK$100 million of HSBC shares.

Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co., which provide independent voting advice to shareholders, have said that HSBC investors should vote against the two proposals.

ISS said that the proposal for a minimum dividend would be overly restrictive, while the spin off proposal lacks disclosure around potential revenue loss from the loss of network and capital requirements for a new entity.

Lui said he had reached out to ISS to set up a meeting several times prior to the report being published and was “very disappointed” that they didn’t accept the request.

Anthony Riha, senior vice president at Alliance Advisors said the team welcomes “an opportunity to provide further information.”

HSBC has reiterated its opposition to the plan by China’s Ping An, arguing it misunderstands the bank and would destroy shareholder value and mean lower dividends. The board has recommended that shareholders vote against the resolutions.

“Separation is not consistent with HSBC’s business model,” the London-based lender said last week.

“HSBC is not a portfolio of discrete domestic banks. It is an integrated bank.”

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