Independent Franchise Partners, which owns a 2% stake in Kirin, had called on the beer maker to sell noncore businesses.
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg News
March 27, 2020 12:00 am ET
TOKYO—Shareholders at Japanese beer maker
Kirin Holdings Co.
soundly defeated a proposal by a London-based investor to unload the company’s health-care holdings and carry out a big share buyback.
Independent Franchise Partners, which owns a 2% stake, had called on Kirin to sell its one-third stake in cosmetics maker
and its majority stake in pharmaceutical maker
Kyowa Kirin Co.
The investor also said Kirin should buy back ¥600 billion ($5.5 billion) worth of shares.
According to a count of most shares provided by Kirin, only 8% of shareholders voted in favor of the buyback plan. The coronavirus pandemic has made many companies and investors more cautious about buybacks because of the need to preserve cash to ride out the current economic downturn.
Emboldened by changes in corporate governance in Japan, foreign shareholders have been pushing for change at more Japanese companies, sometimes with success.
SoftBank Group Corp.
said Monday it would buy back as much as $18 billion in shares after pressure from New York-based fund manager Elliott Management Corp. Many activist investors say they have found a less antagonistic approach brings better results when working with Japanese companies.
Independent Franchise Partners, by contrast, went public with its objections to Kirin’s diversification strategy and accused management of neglecting its core beer business. Kirin representatives said management was focused on the beer business but also wanted to pursue growth areas such as health supplements.
On a proposal by Independent Franchise Partners to revise Kirin’s executive-compensation system, about 21% of shareholders voted yes, according to the company.
Two director candidates proposed by IFP fell short of approval. Some 35% of shareholders supported corporate-governance expert Nicholas Benes and 20% backed pharmaceutical executive Kanako Kikuchi, while most of Kirin management’s nominees won more than 90% support.
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