The week in investor relations: Goldman Sachs on vaccines, Didi Chuxing IPO plans and Toshiba collusion accusations
– CNBC reported that, according to an internal memo, Goldman Sachs is requiring its US employees to report whether they’ve taken one of the Covid-19 vaccines. Goldman Sachs last month told its workforce that they should be ready to return to offices in the US and the UK by June 14. Although it is legal for companies to ask workers about their vaccination status, they must keep that information confidential. Many employers have been reluctant to force staff to take the vaccine or provide evidence of shots, instead relying on an honor system. ‘Registering your vaccination status allows us to plan for a safer return to the office for all of our people as we continue to abide by local public health measures,’ the bank said in the memo. ‘As a result, it is mandatory that you submit your vaccination status on the Canopy app, whether or not you are vaccinated.’ Canopy is the bank’s in-house portal for employee updates.
– Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing service, publicly filed for an IPO in the US this week under its formal name Xiaoju Kuaizhi, ‘potentially setting it up to be more valuable than rival Uber,’ according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The paper reported that although Didi did not indicate which US exchange it plans to list on or the size of its offering, the IPO could be a blockbuster as the company’s valuation hit $62 bn following its last fundraising round in 2019, up from $56 bn in 2018.
– Nikkei Asia (paywall) reported that an investigation has found that the country’s trade ministry colluded with Toshiba to influence the outcome of an annual shareholder meeting. Hiroshi Kajiyama, Japan’s trade minister, told reporters the ministry would wait for a response from Toshiba before commenting, if necessary, though he said the issue was ‘a corporate governance matter’. The report, delivered by a trio of lawyers this week, found that Toshiba and ministry officials devised a plan to prevent Effissimo Capital Management, which holds 9.9 percent of Toshiba’s shares, from fully exercising its proposal at Toshiba’s annual shareholder meeting in July last year. Some shareholders claimed their votes were interfered with or not counted at the meeting. The lawyers’ probe was launched after Toshiba investors passed a resolution at an extraordinary shareholders meeting in March.
– Hong Kong stocks slipped for the seventh day in a row after China passed an anti-sanctions law that provided legal backing for Beijing’s measures to counter foreign sanctions, ‘potentially raising the temperatures on foreign relations,’ reported SCMP. The week-long drop on the Hang Seng index (to June 10) was ‘the market’s longest losing streak since December 2015,’ noted the paper, adding that details of the new law had not been made public at the time of writing.
– According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), mining companies are trying to tap into the flood of money targeting green investments by proclaiming their production of materials that go into wind turbines, power lines and batteries, while downplaying the environmental impact of their operations and, for many of them, their big businesses mining coal. Mining companies are trying to differentiate themselves from fossil-fuel producers, which are facing growing pressure from investors over climate change. The potential for tougher investor-driven climate and emissions actions may lead to higher capital costs and diminished access to capital for oil companies, according to Moody’s.
– The Guardian reported that the US Department of Justice has recovered the majority of a multi-million-dollar ransom payment to hackers after a cyber-attack that caused the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month. The operation to recover the cryptocurrency is the first undertaken by a specialized ransomware taskforce created by the Biden administration, and reflects what US officials say is an increasingly aggressive approach to deal with a ransomware threat that in the last month has targeted critical industries around the world.
– CNN reported that a study released by the Alliance for Board Diversity in collaboration with Deloitte found that white women and minorities made up 38.3 percent of Fortune 500 board seats in 2020, up from 34 percent in 2018. Since 2010 the number of companies with greater than 40 percent diversity (including women) has almost quadrupled. But the average growth rate in minority representation on Fortune 500 boards has remained unchanged – at less than 0.5 percent a year – since 2004. ‘The progress made on overall diversity has largely been due to the increase of white women on boards,’ the study noted. The ‘recycle rate’ of board members – that is, one person serving on multiple boards – has fallen across all groups, the report found. In 2020, however, more than a third of diverse board seats were still held by people serving on multiple Fortune 500 boards, and the rate was highest among black directors.
– In its first annual ESG report, M&T Bank Corp said 60 percent of its employees are female and 23 percent are people of color, according to Bloomberg. In its top ranks, 40 percent of the bank’s board members come from diverse backgrounds, the bank said. Of three directors added to the board last year, two are women and one is a person of color, according to a statement released alongside the report. Among the bank’s executive management staff, 26 percent are female, and 6 percent are people of color, according to the report. The disclosure emerges as major financial firms face the prospect of undertaking racial audits that would review their potential adverse impacts on communities of color. M&T said in the report that it intends to invest in efforts to reach previously ‘under-represented’ consumers, including the unbanked and the underbanked.
– The New York Times reported that Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the company will respond to a recent defeat in a Dutch court by accelerating its efforts to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. Van Beurden said he was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling requiring the company to move faster in cutting greenhouse gases but added that Shell was planning to do just that. ‘For Shell, this ruling does not mean a change but rather an acceleration of our strategy,’ van Beurden said in an article published on LinkedIn. ‘We will seek ways to reduce emissions even further in a way that remains purposeful and profitable.’ The District Court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its global net carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared with 2019. Van Beurden said his first reaction to the ruling was ‘surprise’ because Shell had been at the forefront among oil companies in setting targets to reduce emissions. He said the company still expected to appeal the judgment.
– More than 70 CEOs from some of the world’s biggest companies have called on governments to do much more to tackle climate change, including forcing businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, according to CNN. In an open letter, executives including Mark Schneider of Nestlé and Ramon Laguarta of PepsiCo urged all governments to set policies to meet targets consistent with the Paris climate agreement’s most ambitious goal of capping the global rise in temperatures to 1.5ºC. The letter was published ahead of leaders of the G7 group meeting in the UK this weekend and ahead of COP26, a global climate summit, in November. A separate call by investors managing more than $41 tn in assets warned that governments ‘risk missing out on a wave of investment’ if they fail to implement meaningful policies to tackle climate change.