As Elliott Circles, Hyundai Readies `Shareholder Friendly' Plan

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(Bloomberg) -- An architect of Hyundai Motor Group’s revamp effort said the South Korean carmaking conglomerate is poised to unveil changes to enhance shareholder value amid pressure from investors including Elliott Management Corp.

“I know the shareholder-friendly policies will be revealed one-by-one as the company’s plans proceed,” said Jeong Young-chae, chief executive officer of NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul, which is advising Hyundai on its plans. He declined to give a timeframe.

The auto and parts group met with Elliott and other stock owners in London this week and discussions included the New York-based hedge fund’s concerns about overlapping shareholdings among companies in the group, according to people familiar with the matter. Hyundai is expected to take the discussions into consideration in its restructuring plan, said the people who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

Read more about Elliott’s activist push at Hyundai Motor here.

Elliott, the sometimes activist fund run by billionaire Paul Singer, said last week it had acquired a more than $1 billion stake in Hyundai Motor Group companies and wanted to see a clearer picture of plans to improve its operations. Elliott applauded the company’s moves last month to simplify its ownership structure, calling it just the “first step.” Elliott has said its holdings are in Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Hyundai Mobis Co.

“The proposed changes will benefit every stakeholder including employees, customers and shareholders,” Hyundai Motor Group said in an email, without providing details of the changes. Representatives for Elliott declined to comment.

Hyundai Motor made a similar statement when announcing restructuring steps March 28.

That plan “might be somewhat insufficient to investors, but the restructuring plan was organized by the rules, not by the interests of largest shareholders,” Jeong said in a phone interview. “Although it is not easy to satisfy investors 100 percent, it is a long-term plan, and the structure was set to benefit investors as much as possible.”

Jeong suggested that Hyundai Motor isn’t likely to create a holding company structure as a way to clear out cross shareholdings because it is a vertically integrated manufacturer that continues to have a lot of transactions among group companies. He said he has no direct knowledge of what Elliott has demanded so far.

A previous restructuring step that put the group’s Hyundai Mobis in control of other units was designed to eliminate “circular” shareholdings and resolve internal trading among affiliates, Jeong said.

“The current structure was designed not to disrupt the vertically integrated business and to cut ties of circular shareholdings,” Jeong said.

Elliott’s investment in the group marks a return to South Korea three years after it began pushing for reforms at the nation’s biggest conglomerate, Samsung Group, narrowly losing in a proxy fight. That effort did yield some results, including playing a key role in events that led to the impeachment of the country’s president and the jailing of Samsung’s de-facto leader.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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