The week in investor relations: ByteDance buybacks, Nasdaq direct listings and BlackRock considers crypto
– TikTok owner ByteDance launched a share buyback this week after shelving its IPO plans, according to Reuters, citing sources close to the company. It added that last week company founder Zhang Yiming unexpectedly announced that he would step down as CEO, a move that comes as Chinese regulators are increasing scrutiny of the country’s biggest technology firms.
– In an exclusive for the news agency, Reuters also reported that Nasdaq is seeking to remove a capital-raising restriction for companies going public through a direct listing. The move follows the SEC’s approval last week of a Nasdaq proposal to allow companies to raise capital in a direct listing as long the shares start trading within the indicated price range set. The listing would be pulled if shares were set to trade outside that range.
– BlackRock is studying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to determine whether the asset class could offer countercyclical benefits, reported CoinDesk. At the AGM of the world’s largest asset manager, a shareholder asked whether the company would be investing in cryptocurrencies. CoinDesk quoted CEO Larry Fink as responding: ‘The firm has monitored the evolution of crypto assets. We are studying what it means, the infrastructure, the regulatory landscape.’
– A former Bloomberg executive is to take charge of ‘troubled’ Refinitiv after its life as part of London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) ‘got off to a bumpy start,’ reported The Times (paywall). Andrea Stone, currently the financial data provider’s chief product officer, will replace chief executive David Craig at the end of this year. The paper said ‘bourses around the world have been rushing to buy financial information firms’, adding that LSEG completed its $27 bn purchase of Refinitiv in January.
– According to The Wall Street Journal (paywall), more diverse executives are getting to pick and choose their finance jobs, as companies look to boost diversity in their leadership teams amid heightened public awareness about racial inequality. Although those from minorities already in the executive ranks are seeing more opportunities, it can be difficult for those without C-suite experience to break in, recruiters and finance professionals say. Many companies and boards now insist on being presented with a diverse slate of candidates when filling C-suite positions and are tweaking how they assess candidates. They are also taking steps to better retain and promote diverse internal talent.
– ISS Corporate Solutions released an analysis showing a nearly 200 percent increase in the count of newly appointed S&P 500 board members who are black. The spike follows widespread racial justice protests last summer that prompted many US corporate leaders to pledge to increase diversity among directors and executives. According to the analysis, which covers the period from July 1, 2020 to May 19, 2021, almost a third of all newly appointed directors were black while just over half were white. By comparison, those figures stood at 11 percent and 74 percent, respectively, for the period between July 1, 2019 and May 19, 2020, and at 12 percent and 77 percent, respectively, for the period between July 1, 2018 and May 19, 2019.
– In news that ‘reaffirmed’ the London Stock Exchange’s ability to attract European companies post-Brexit, Reuters reported that private equity firm TA Associates is planning a London listing for Czech firm WAG payment solutions, also known as Eurowag. A source told the news agency the deal could value the Czech company in excess of $2 bn, and would also see it target a premium listing and inclusion in London’s FTSE indices.
– CNN reported that a court in the Netherlands ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must dramatically cut its carbon emissions in a landmark climate decision. The company must reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2019 levels, according to the judgment. That includes emissions from its own operations and from the energy products it sells. It is the first time a court has ruled a company needs to reduce its emissions in line with global climate goals, according to Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The company announced plans in September to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050, a target that includes emissions from its products. It is currently targeting a 20 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030, and 45 percent by 2035.
– The Guardian reported that a majority of Chevron shareholders rebelled against the company’s board by voting 61 percent in fav+or of a proposal from Follow This asking the company to cut its carbon emissions. Mark van Baal, who founded Follow This, said shareholder revolts mark an investor ‘paradigm shift’ and a ‘victory in the fight against climate change.’+