It has long been a fact that patriotism and national pride trumps fairness or financial profits, and apparently that rule still holds true in 21st century global finance. In an example of how this rule of human nature (or Lee family influence) applies to modern global business, Korea Investment Corporation announced on Thursday that it may pull its investment in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management if Elliott continues to act against the national interests of Korea in his ongoing battle with the management of Korean institution Samsung.
The crux of the dispute in this case is that Samsung C&T wants to merge with it’s holding company Cheil Industries Inc. Elliott, however, is seeking to block the merger, calling it a bad deal for Samsung C&T shareholders. Of note, several proxy advisory services have come out with recommendations that shareholders vote against the merger deal.
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Statement from Korea Investment Corp execs
“If Elliott acts only for short-term investment gains and hurts the national interest, KIC will consider pulling its investment from the hedge fund,” a KIC executive commented Thursday.
Despite a broad wave of pro-Samsung, anti-Elliott sentiment sweeping Korea over the last few weeks, KIC denies its statement is related to Elliott’s fight with Samsung. However, as a general rule of thumb, when a senior exec makes a statement where the second sentence directly contradicts the first sentence, you know something’s up.
“KIC’s decision on Elliott is not related to its ongoing dispute with Samsung affiliates. If Elliott pushes Samsung only for short-term gains rather than boosting shareholders’ value by improving corporate governance, then this will be against the country’s interests and KIC will pull its investment from Elliott,” said the official.
More on KIC
KIC has close to $85 billion in assets, and has been invested in Elliott for five years. KIC notes it has invested $2.6 billion in 20 different hedge funds. According to official documents, KIC has invested around $50 million in the U.S. hedge fund and has enjoyed close to 40% profits.
South Korean National Pension Service represents swing votes in Samsung proxy fight
It turns out the Samsung merger may actually be decided by South Korea’s National Pension Service, the world’s third-largest public pension fund and the largest shareholder in Samsung C&T.
NPS has assets of around $450 billion, and primarily invests domestically. The pension fund owns more than 10% of Samsung C&T shares and is likely to be a key swing vote at the upcoming shareholder meeting. Of note, the merger proposal requires the vote of two-thirds of shareholders for approval at the meeting next Friday.
The pension fund has not stated how it will vote, sticking to the line that it will consider the fund’s long-term interests in making its decision.