Shareholders of Australian companies don’t always welcome the views of activist investors, and often view dissident proposals as hostile, non-constructive events, said Jeffrey Pierce, managing partner at Snow Park Capital Partners.
That’s different than in the U.S., at least, where these proposals are seen generally as neutral, the activist fund’s founder said in an interview featured on The Deal’s Activist Investing Today podcast. Pierce reflected on a director contest he launched in 2011 at an Australian REIT with U.S. assets, during the interview. New York-based Snow Park ultimately lost the campaign but received the backing of roughly 30% of shares.
“Activism [in Australia] isn’t looked at as a neutral event to be evaluated and in some situations, it is viewed as a hostile event, disrupting a small market,” Pierce said. “There was a bit of a cultural barrier we had to face, as well.”
Pierce also discussed his experience of initially receiving a lot of support for pushing the REIT to divest its U.S. assets, followed by some significant push back.
“Most institutional investors [in Australia] have connections with people who may have had vested interest in this company and the external adviser of this company,” he said. “As we started to push our case, we found that people were reticent to take a public stance or a vocal stand that was in opposition to management.”
On the podcast, Pierce also discussed Elliott Management’s campaign at BHP Ltd., and how Australia’s federal corporate governance system can be much more shareholder-friendly, when it comes to nominating director candidates, than its diffused counterpart in the U.S. Pierce noted that a large segment of U.S. REITs are incorporated in Maryland, which can be particularly pro-management.
Here’s the podcast: