By Lee Seung-hoon and Choi Mira
A unit of U.S. activist investor Elliott Management pressed South Korea’s auto giant Hyundai Motor Group to do more to improve governance structure and returns for stakeholders, flagging its equity stakeholding worth $1 billion in three flagship names Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Hyundai Mobis Co.
“As a major investor, Elliott is pleased that Hyundai Motor Group has taken a first step towards an improved and more sustainable corporate structure,” Elliott Advisors Hong Kong said in a statement Wednesday, in response to the group’s restructuring plan to rationalize its complex governance structure.
Hyundai Motor Group announced last week that the module and after-service parts businesses of its auto parts unit Hyundai Mobis, at the heart of its complex cross-shareholding ties, will be merged with its logistics unit Hyundai Glovis. The move not only simplifies the group structure by turning Hyundai Mobis into a de facto holding unit, but is also believed to be prepping the transfer of power from 80-year-old chair Chung Mong-koo to his 48-year-old son and vice chair Chung Eui-sun.
The plan is subject to approval at each company’s shareholders’ meeting scheduled on May 29.
“While this step is encouraging, more needs to be done to benefit the companies and stakeholders,” Elliot said, calling for an additional measure for the restructuring.
Shares of Hyundai Motor affiliates were uplifted on expectations for reform at one of Korea’s most old-fashioned business conglomerates.
Hyundai Motor rose 3.62 percent to end Wednesday at 157,500 won and those of Kia Motors gained 2.52 percent to 32,550 won. Hyundai Mobis rose 3.13 percent to 263,500 won and Hyundai Glovis gained 2.11 percent to 169,500 won.
“Elliott looks forward to engaging with management and other stakeholders directly on these issues, and to offering recommendations regarding the proposed plan,” the hedge fund said. According to sources from the financial and investment industry, Elliott holds a combined 1.4 percent stake in Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis.
Elliot has been a critic of chaebol entities. It filed a series of lawsuits to block the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015. It also proposed Samsung Electronics to simplify its operations and increase shareholder returns in 2016. The electronics giant last year took a series of measures including a record buyback program in line with the hedge fund’s recommendations.