Foreign investors reduce stake in Coway BlackRock and GIC sell shares as dividend payout ratio drops

Translated by Kim So-in 공개 2021-07-27 10:32:48

이 기사는 2021년 07월 27일 07:56 더벨 유료페이지에 표출된 기사입니다.

Foreign investors in South Korea’s home appliance rental service firm Coway started to exit as the company has lowered its dividend payout ratio over the past few years after Netmarble became its largest shareholder.

Coway implemented active shareholder return policies in 2013 when MBK Partners became the largest shareholder of the company. MBK Partners acquired a controlling 30.9% stake in Coway through special purpose company Coway Holdings in January 2013.

Under MBK Partners’ ownership, the domestic rental service business boomed amid the company’s intensive restructuring. Coway also tried to discover new sources of revenue by expanding its reach to other countries including China.

The biggest change was the active shareholder return policy. When MBK Partners took over the management rights in 2013, Coway’s dividend payout ratio skyrocketed to 82.2%, which contrasts with 2012 when no dividend was paid by the company. Coway’s dividend payout ratio increased to 96% in 2016.

Foreign investors were attracted by Coway’s high dividend payout ratio. GIC Private Limited boosted its stake in Coway to 7.032% in 2016 and Government of Singapore, the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, increased its stake to more than 5% in the same year. Lazard Asset Management increased its stake from 5.21% to 6.78% in 2017.

In 2018, Coway started to pay interim quarterly dividends along with final dividends. The company paid dividends every quarter from 2018 to 2019, with the total annual amount of dividends staying the same.

Quarterly dividend payments are considered as a common way to enhance shareholder value in overseas markets. It is particularly effective in terms of cash flow diversification.

On the contrary, few companies, including Samsung Electronics, Posco, Hanon Systems, and SsangYong C&E, have paid out dividends on a quarterly basis in Korea. The quarterly dividend payment increases a company’s corporate value. Coway's foreign ownership ratio jumped from a low 50% to a 60% range as it began paying out on a quarterly basis.

Since 2019, Coway’s ownership structure has dramatically changed. MBK Partners has sold its shares via a block deal since 2019 and Netmarble ultimately became the largest shareholder of Coway in February 2020. Foreign investors including GIC and Lazard also joined the selling spree.

Netmarble has believed Coway's financial capability has been somewhat weakened due to the active shareholder return policy and decided to divert financial resources for dividend payouts to IT investments. As a result, Coway’s annual dividend payout ratio plummeted to 34.8% in 2019 from 74.8% in 2018. The ratio dropped more to 21.5% in 2020.

The world‘s largest asset management firm BlackRock reduced its stake in Coway from 5.01% to 3.83% in May. Morgan Stanley is retaining its stake without investing more.

In contrast, Impax Asset Management increased its stake in Coway. (Reporting by Hyun-ji Sohn)
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