Singapore-based investment company Symphony International Holdings under fire over “disastrous” performance
The board of a London Stock Exchange-listed investment company specialising in private equity investments in South-East Asia and India is under fire from one of its major shareholders for “Disastrous NAV and Share Price Performance”.
Prominent UK investment firm, Asset Value Investors (AVI), owns a 15.4% stake in Symphony International Holdings Ltd (LON: SIHL), a closed-end investment vehicle managed from Singapore. In a move labelled “constructive activism”, AVI has today launched a campaign calling for support from other shareholders to have the SIHL board replaced.
“We, the shareholders, have suffered years of poor performance overseen by the SIHL board. Set against market comparators, the absolute NAV returns have been extremely poor. The impact upon shareholder returns is further exacerbated by the persistently poor share performance and wide discount of share price to NAV (today 50%; averaging c.40%),” said Tom Treanor, Executive Director, Asset Value Investors.
“Whilst shareholders have suffered patiently and without a voice, management has prospered. Eye-watering sums of money have been paid by the Company to the investment manager. In our view, chronic conflicts of interest exist across the Board of Directors and explain why this state of affairs has been allowed to continue for so long.
“We are seeking to work with other shareholders whose holdings when combined with our own hit the 30% threshold required to requisition an EGM at which we will seek the removal of the current Board and its replacement with new directors willing and able to properly represent the interests of shareholders.”
Treanor says his firm’s campaign has two objectives:
- Ensure all shareholders are fully informed as to our concerns regarding the stewardship of SIHL and the independence of the Board, which in our view is inherently conflicted and whose actions have failed to protect shareholder interests ahead of those of the management team;
- Gather together sufficient support (30%, including our own 15.4% stake) to requisition an EGM to remove the current directors and replace them with new directors willing and able to properly represent the interests of shareholders. Following their appointment, the new board would be given a mandate to consult widely with shareholders to build a consensus for the optimal path forward to maximise value for the benefit of all shareholders.
SIHL was formed in 2004 with an investment objective of increasing net asset value through long-term strategic private equity investments in consumer-related businesses, primarily in the Hospitality, Healthcare and Lifestyle sectors in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular South-East Asia and India, as well as through investments in special situations and structured transactions
Performance has been abject in absolute terms and when measured against market indices or peer funds, with shareholders invested since the 2007 IPO and who participated in the 2012 rights issue having suffered a -21% negative return. This compares to a +89% return from the MSCI AC Asia index and +141% from the MSCI AC World over the same period.
SIHL has also been plagued by a consistent share price discount to estimated net asset value.
AVI has established a dedicated website (www.savesymphony.com) to assist in its campaign.