Samsung Electronics reported to be weighing up split


29 November, 2016

Samsung said it's looking for a "highly qualified" director "with global corporate experience" and plans to nominate at least one new, independent board member for approval at the next annual shareholder meeting in March 2017. Each shareholder would benefit by 28,500 won per share, or 36 percent added to last year's payout when factoring in the stock gains from buyback and cancellation action, the company said in a statement.

The South Korean giant said it would take about six months for the review to be completed.

While there's no confirmation of the decision to split as of now, Samsung is expected to make a decision publicly some time on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Seoul Economic Daily reported that the South Korean conglomerate will discuss its plans - including the one about splitting - on a conference call on Tuesday morning. In its earnings report for the third quarter of the year, Samsung logged 5.2 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in operating profit, down almost 30 percent year over year, for its worst performance in two years.

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The move comes after USA activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. asked Samsung last month to improve Samsung's corporate governance and to simplify its complicated ownership structure by splitting into a holding company and an operating company. The company will also pay a $26 billion special dividend to investors and will agree to return at least 75 per cent of its free cash flow back to them.

"At the same time, however, Samsung Electronics' shareholders have suffered from the long-term undervaluation of the business by the equity market", it said. Under Elliott Management recommendations, the enterprise will be separated into a corporation and a holding company.

Experts say, this would give heir apparent Lee Jae-yong room to further strengthen his grip within the group, which includes Samsung Electronics and insurance company Samsung Life. In early October activist shareholders called upon Samsung Electronics to split into two entities: an operational company and a holding firm. There is a high probability he will implement the recommendations to transform the company's management.

The South Korean parliament has stepped up pressure on the country's National Pension Service to say if had any external pressure to approve the contentious merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries previous year despite recommendations from proxy advisers to reject it.

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