H&M's Abandoned Reinvestment Plan Triggers New Financing Fears

(Bloomberg) -- Hennes & Mauritz AB was getting ready to reassure investors with a turnaround plan at its first ever capital markets day on Wednesday.

Instead, it risks a barrage of questions over its financing after management had to abandon a proposal to get shareholders to reinvest their dividends in new stock. H&M said the maneuver proved too difficult to implement, meaning it will miss out on the cash it needs to fix the issues it faces online and in its physical shops.

"Now they’re stuck with the question of whether to do a share issue instead," Claes Hemberg, a savings adviser at online broker bank Avanza AB, said by phone.

H&M didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

H&M's Abandoned Reinvestment Plan Triggers New Financing Fears

The company said last month it was looking into asking shareholders to convert their dividends into new shares. The move was expected to strengthen the control of Chairman Stefan Persson and his family, who had pledged to reinvest their portion. But an initial response from Sweden’s tax agency suggested shareholders would face a levy before reinvesting, making the transaction less attractive to some investors.

Hemberg said H&M may now consider a bridge loan to help it cover its costs through the autumn, when Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson expects profitability to recover. If the turnaround doesn’t come, Hemberg says he’s worried a traditional share issue may be in the cards.

H&M is already down 44 percent since the end of 2016. Over the past decade, the company has relied increasingly on borrowed funds. In 2017, H&M had net debt of 500 million kronor. That compares with net cash of about 25 billion kronor in 2010.

The board will now propose that an unchanged dividend of 9.75 kronor per share be paid for the financial year 2016-17. The payout will be made in two installments, one in the spring and one in the autumn.

Skandia fund manager Erik Sjostrom, who has sold shares in H&M recently, urged the company to cut its dividend instead of pursuing a share issue. "They don’t have the income to motivate this high level of dividend," he said by phone. "It’s not sustainable."

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