According to the press release, “Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), manager of the $550 billion Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, has filed shareholder proposals for proxy access at six US companies as part of its efforts to strengthen shareholder rights.
NBIM filed proposals on Nov. 22 at Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, Western Union, Staples, Pioneer Natural Resources and CME Group to give shareholders the right to nominate candidates for board elections on company ballots. At filing, the fund held stakes of 0.6 percent to 1.1 percent in these companies, valued at a total $1.4 billion.
The right to nominate candidates to the board of publicly listed companies is a fundamental principle of good corporate governance. While this is upheld by US law, the process is cumbersome and costly because shareholders must submit alternative agendas at annual general meetings and distribute documentation among investors. Proxy access simplifies this process by allowing shareholders to put their nominees straight on the company’s agenda.
“Board members must be held accountable,” says Anne Kvam, global head of ownership policy at NBIM. “When they fail to meet our expectations, we as shareholders should be able to propose alternatives without incurring prohibitively high costs.”
The US Court of Appeals in July rejected a proposal by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to introduce universal proxy access. In the absence of such a rule, NBIM will seek to change the bylaws at US companies where it is particularly important for shareholders to be able to nominate alternative board members, such as corporations that have demonstrated poor corporate governance or unsatisfactory financial performance.
“This is the first time we file proxy access proposals,” says Kvam. “We will continue to identify companies with unsatisfactory performance.”
NBIM proposes each company establish a procedure for shareholders to nominate candidates to the board on the company’s ballot, subject to limits. Shareholders should own a minimum 1 percent of common stock for at least one year to nominate members and may propose no more than 25 percent of a board’s members. A maximum of 25 percent of the members of an elected board may have been nominated by shareholders. The six companies’ annual general meetings will be held in the second quarter of 2012.”
Read more: NBIM Press Release
According to data from SWFI’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Transaction Database, Asian sovereign funds invested US$ 6.05 billion directly into companies and assets in the information technology sector from Jan 2017 to November 22, 2017. In a comparable time frame from Jan 2016 to November 22, 2016, this same group of Asian sovereign funds directly invested US$ 5.02 billion in the sector. These are direct investments, not fund commitments or manager allocations.
Asian sovereign funds such as GIC Private Limited, Temasek Holdings and the Korea Investment Corporation (KIC) have demonstrated bullish signals to the technology community over other sectors. GIC and Temasek have also been major investors in the private side of deals, funding a wide range of tech startups, while providing financial firepower in buyout transactions.
Some notable direct tech investments in 2017 by sovereign funds include Meituan-Dianping, SoundCloud, Nets A/S, Visma AS, Turn, Inc. and Vantiv.
The Australian government has appointed Robert Priestley – current non-executive chair of J.P Morgan for Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) and a non-executive director of ASX – to serve on the Future Fund Board of Guardians for a five-year term from November 7, 2017. Priestley replaces former Morgan Stanley Australia chief executive Steven J. Harker.
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Associated British Ports (ABP) – operator of 21 major ports throughout the United Kingdom – has announced a reboot of its ABP Property division, complete with a new team of specialists in commercial development and logistics led by Huw Turner, in order to identify and develop strategically significant locations in its 2,372 acre land bank.
ABP is owned in large part by a consortium of pensions and sovereign funds, including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) at 33.88% ownership, OMERS at 30%, Singapore’s GIC Ventures Pte Ltd at 20.00% ownership, and the Kuwait Investment Authority at 10.00% ownership. Large institutional investors such as sovereign funds, pensions, and endowments have slowly increased allocation towards infrastructure over the past six years as an alternative to equities and bonds, according to asset allocation data from SWFI.
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