SEOUL: Investors in Hyundai Motor Group companies rejected on Friday Elliott Management's demands for a massive special dividend, dealing a blow to the U.S. hedge fund's campaign to shake up South Korea's second-biggest family-run conglomerate.
South Korea has been trying to make its corporate giants - long dominated by powerful elites affording minority investors little say - more accountable under pressure from foreign investors and following a bribery scandal last year.
Elliott, founded by billionaire Paul Singer, successfully led a campaign against Hyundai's ownership restructuring plan last year but failed to convince other investors on Friday that the group was hoarding cash which should be returned to shareholders.
Elliott had been trying to rally shareholder support for dividend payouts from Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis for 2018 worth a combined 7 trillion won (US$6.2 billion), saying the group should dispose of its excess capital.
It has also demanded a total of five board nominees at Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis to address "governance shortcomings". Hyundai Motor shareholders rejected nominees backed by Elliott, and voting is underway at Hyundai Mobis.
While it failed to win support for hefty dividend, even if it manages to gain a single seat at Hyundai it would be a major victory for shareholder empowerment in the country.
"Today’s AGM is never a place for a battle between Elliott and Hyundai Motor Group. (It's) a place to give an opportunity for all shareholders to ... set a new standard," Choi Joon-ho, a representative of Elliott, said at the Hyundai Mobis AGM in Seoul.
Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis have proposed dividend payouts of about US$1 billion for last year, as well as their own director nominees.
Hyundai Mobis CEO Lim Young-deuk said at the meeting that its dividend proposal reflected its need to boost investment.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Ju-Min Park; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Stephen Coates)