SOUTH KOREA: Hyundai-Kia buybacks to appease shareholders
Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors have unveiled share buybacks worth a combined KRW670bn (US$615m) in an apparent bid to appease investors angered by the sky-high price paid for property to house new headquarters.
Reuters said the move was Hyundai's first share buyback specifically aimed at enhancing shareholder value in nearly a decade and Kia's first ever, and followed announcements by the companies last month that they would consider interim dividends for the first time.
It has also boosted hopes that other Korean conglomerates will embark on more shareholder-friendly measures, the report said.
According to Reuters, Seoul-listed stocks tend to trade at discounts to shares elsewhere partly due to low dividends and investor worries about corporate governance. The government is considering taxes on large corporate cash piles to increase dividends and investment.
"Since Hyundai has now rolled up its sleeves, we expect it to get on with more shareholder returns such as dividends," Kim Yong-goo, a market analyst at Samsung Securities, told the news agency.
"This may be a turning point for shareholder policy at Korean companies," he said.
The report noted that Hyundai Motor's stock has lost about a fifth of its value since news broke that it, Kia and parts affiliate Hyundai Mobis had bid $10bn for a new headquarters site in Seoul's high-end Gangnam district, more than triple the appraisal amount.
Hyundai said it would buy back KRW449bn worth of common and preferred shares while Kia also said it would repurchase stock worth KRW220.9bn. Both buybacks are equivalent to 1% of the automakers' outstanding shares.
The share repurchase programmes, which will be completed by 11 February, aim "to enhance shareholder value by stabilizing share prices", the companies said in separate regulatory filings.
While buyback plans earmarked for rewarding employees are not uncommon, Hyundai's only other buyback aimed at rewarding shareholders was in 2005, regulatory filings show.
Reuters added that Kia also said on Tuesday company president Park Han-woo would become co-CEO. Hank Lee is the other CEO. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the reason for the promotion.