If recent events tell us anything, it's that voting matters... With that in mind this is a quick post on something that caught my eye this year: sharp changes in voting turnout at a number of companies. Some of the more striking examples have been at companies that have got into financial trouble, like Thomas Cook, Interserve, Kier Group and so on. Here are a few examples (excuse my poor Excel skills). I've included publicly available data on short positions at the same time as the relevant meeting, as I think that the impact of shorting might be part of the story.
For completeness, take a look at Premier Oil, where a huge short position has recently been reported (it seems this one might be hedging).
But it's not just about shorting, there are some interesting results at companies that have been in the middle of other activity. Have a look at Provident Financial, which was facing a bid from Non-Standard Finance earlier this year. I have half an idea here that it could be the result of people taking a punt on the takeover succeeding using equity derivatives, hence banks ended up on the register as counterparties but didn't vote (as I believe there is a tax issue). I'm interested if anyone can tell me if I'm talking gibberish, or not.
And if we look back at Whitbread over the past couple of years, when Elliott had a large derivative position and was pressuring the company to restructure, we also see a drop in turnout. I'm not clear why this sharpened in 2019, though it's worth noting that it bounced back at this month's EGM. Press reports suggest Elliott wound down its position in July.
I'd love to see what the turnout at Melrose Industries March 2018 EGM was like, as I suspect we'd see the impact of hedge funds there too. But it's the one set of meeting results not available on its website.
And with that, I'm off... Happy Xmas and see you in 2020!