The week in investor relations: Ant Group reveals listing plans and Storebrand kicks out anti-climate action lobbyists
– Ant Group, the mobile payments company owned by Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, announced plans to float on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges, in what could become the world’s largest IPO. The Guardian reported that the firm could raise as much as $30 bn in the flotation, topping the $25.6 bn raised by Saudi Aramco’s IPO in December 2019. Though no details were given, the newspaper said it has been suggested the flotation could be in October, and that up to 15 percent of a $200 bn-$300 bn valuation for the firm would be sought.
– In other Jack Ma news, Taiwan targeted Alibaba in a crackdown on ‘hidden’ Chinese investments, reported Forbes, as part of Taiwan’s new regulation aimed at tightening controls around Chinese investments. Taiwan’s government has ordered e-commerce service Taobao Taiwan – operated by UK-based Claddagh Venture Investment, but ultimately controlled by Alibaba, according to officials in Taiwan – to register as a company from mainland China or divest an ownership stake currently held by Alibaba Group within six months.
– Storebrand, the $91 bn asset manager, has divested from ExxonMobil, Chevron and miner Rio Tinto in protest over their lobbying on climate change, reported the Financial Times (paywall). ‘Climate change is one the greatest risks facing humanity and lobbying activities [that] undermine action to solve this crisis are simply unacceptable,’ the paper reported Jan Erik Saugestad, chief executive of Storebrand, as saying. ‘The Exxons and Chevrons of the world are holding us back.’ Storebrand also dumped Southern Company, the US energy provider, and German chemicals group BASF.
– The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported that, according to data provider MyLogIQ, 87 percent of companies in the S&P 500 opted for a virtual AGM this year compared with 23 percent of meetings held remotely in 2019. Companies are finding virtual AGMs to be cheaper and less time-consuming, but some shareholders complain they don’t get as much time to ask their questions. Remote investor events held by companies in the S&P 500 this year ran for an average of 32 minutes, seven minutes shorter than in-person shareholder meetings in 2019, according to a recent study of more than 90 annual meetings by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Executives allocated less time for business updates and for answering shareholders’ questions compared with in-person meetings in 2019, the study noted.
– TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer announced his departure just three months into the job, saying that ‘in recent weeks, the political environment has sharply changed.’ Citing sources, CNBC reported that the announcement indicates that a deal, likely a sale to Microsoft, could come in the next 48 hours. Trump issued an executive order on August 14 that gave ByteDance 90 days to divest the US operations of TikTok.
– On Thursday, London’s FTSE 100 slipped as earnings updates from firms including Rolls-Royce underlined the extent of the corporate damage from the Covid-19 pandemic ahead of the annual Jackson Hole central bankers’ conference, reported Reuters. It also reported that Rolls-Royce is planning to sell off assets in a bid to raise at least £2 bn ($2.6 bn) and shore up finances after a record loss.
– In an unusual activist move, Barclays’ top shareholder – activist Edward Bramson – stepped up his campaign to oust CEO Jes Staley, pointing to a subpoena that requires JPMorgan Chase & Co to hand over Staley’s communications with deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, reported Bloomberg News. Bramson said in a letter to his investors (seen by Bloomberg News) that the request could further damage Barclays’ reputation.