BOSTON — Three Brazilian billionaires who cofounded investment firm 3G Capital are backing a veteran U.S. investor who played a key role in hedge fund Third Point’s activist campaigns, to make big, long-term bets on companies, three people familiar with the plans said.
LTS One will be a new investment partnership between LTS Investments and Munib Islam, who was previously co-chief investment officer at Third Point. LTS Investments is the holding company and investment office that oversees the family fortunes of 3G Capital cofounders Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira.
Islam and a representative for LTS declined to comment.
Lemann, Telles, Sicupira and 3G are best known for helping build companies like drink and brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, fast food holding company Restaurant Brands and partnering with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to create food company Kraft Heinz.
Now the trio of billionaires, who are in their 70s and 80s and spent their careers taking controlling stakes in their six strategic investments, are inching closer to trying something new – influencing management while holding minority stakes, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the plans have not been publicly announced.
LTS Investments, named for the first initial of the principals’ last names, was introduced to Islam through a mutual connection and the men agreed to terms on Zoom calls during a pandemic which left them located on three different continents.
Islam brings the ability to identify targets and structure activist campaigns. He worked Third Point’s most high-profile efforts, including at food companies Nestle and Campbell Soup, conglomerate Sony and hospital products maker Baxter International, where he was named to the board in 2015.
ENGAGEMENT BUT NO FLASHY FIGHTS
LTS One is not likely to make its mark by starting out with a flashy proxy fight https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/little-engine-that-could-oil-giant-that-couldnt-2021-05-27 the way newcomer Engine No. 1 did at Exxon Mobil this year when it won three board seats.
Instead the fund, which does not expect to accept outside money at the start, plans to engage behind the scenes and stop short of making the types of demands many activists are known for. Rather than calling for share buybacks or divesting underperforming units, LTS One will likely be more interested in altering the direction of a company’s earnings instead of reshaping its portfolio. It expects to take significant minority stakes in companies in various sectors and countries, the sources said.
And because the fund will not be a traditional hedge fund with investors who may get itchy if progress is not instant, Islam and his team will be able to make longer-term investments, staying put for five years or longer instead of exiting after two to three years as activists often do.
LTS One has already invested roughly $1 billion in several situations but will not say exactly how much money it plans to put to work in the future, the sources said.
Islam, 47, plans to employ a small team of analysts in New York. He will likely be the first to approach a company’s management team and board but the three principals Lemann, Telles and Sicupira also expect to become involved, doing more than simply providing seed capital for a new activist hedge fund, the sources said.
Islam is taking on the new role after leaving Third Point in 2020. Third Point, which gained 11% during the first quarter of 2021 and has returned an average 15.1% a year since its launch in 1996, engages in a variety of strategies, including activism, put is not considered a pure-play activist firm in the manner of Starboard Value, for example.
Following a slowdown in activist campaigns during the pandemic, activity is picking up again with 55 campaigns initiated in the United States during the first half of 2021. In Japan activists launched 10 campaigns in the first half of the year, signaling more activity outside of U.S. companies.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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Instead, mineral explorers and developers often see substantial projects halted in their tracks by staunch community-level opposition, even when projects had passed regulatory muster, says mining sector researcher, analyst and reporter Paul Harris, in an interview.
Legacy CSR programs are simply no longer adequate. The analyst suggests those wishing to do business in these jurisdictions take a more holistic approach toward meaningful engagement with host communities before engaging governmental authorities about their respective projects.
The solution, according to Harris, is companies today have to be willing to give up an ownership stake in their projects so that local communities and local and federal governments have more skin in the game.
China still holds the cards for global supply chains, whether or not Covid lockdowns frustrate businesses in the near term. An employee works on the production line of the screens for 5G smartphones at a factory on May 13, 2022 in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province of China.
Standardizing ESG reporting, and making it mandatory, would be a start toward reliable ESG investing
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“Scam” or “dangerous placebo” are some of the terms used by critics to denounce Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing. Yet others see it as one of our last chances to pivot our financial world to a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly model.
ESG, a form of sustainable investing, is increasingly being used as a measure of how well a company is using its investment money. For investors looking to instigate change, ESG scores help them decide if a company is worth their money.
This is despite ESG dating back to 2006, when the U.N. launched the Principles for Responsible Investment at the New York Stock Exchange. The initiative was backed by leading institutions from 16 countries, representing more than $2 trillion in assets owned at the time.
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ESG critics and optimists have called on the government to use its power to fine tune ESG metrics and finally standardize it, in order to give it more credibility.
ESG not what it seems?
In 2021, ESG investment saw issuance exceeding US$1.6 trillion, bringing its total market to more than US$4 trillion. Not only that, but Bloomberg expects ESG assets to exceed US$53 trillion by 2025.
Fierce critics like Tariq Fancy — who worked as the chief investment officer for investment management firm BlackRock before leaving in late 2019 — made headlines with his disillusionment over ESG’s true impact.
“That $4 trillion isn’t really $4 trillion,” Fancy said, in reference to the widely-circulated figure.
For Fancy, the “vast majority” of what’s happening is that companies are “recategorizing existing funds and moving money and shares around from one basket to another…
“They’ve figured out that socially conscious investors will gladly pay more in fees for something with a ‘green’ label,” he said, adding that ESG funds have 43 per cent higher fees on average.
“Also, they don’t fund carbon capture and new innovations, for the most part they publicly overweight tech companies (Microsoft) and underweight oil companies (Exxon),” he added.
Also, regular investors mainly have access to secondary shares that are sold and purchased on a daily basis, which have little impact, argued Fancy.
“The changes we need immediately to flatten the [greenhouse gas] curve are collective actions led by the government — experts have been telling us this for decades,” he said.
As ESG investing rises, so do emissions
Like elsewhere, Canadian ESG investment is increasing, but, again like elsewhere, the nation hasn’t reduced its emissions in the past year.
A March, 2022 report from the International Energy Agency said that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by six per cent in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes — a new record — as the world bounced back from the pandemic.
ESG does make a difference
Art Lightstone, climate activist and host of the Green Neighbour Podcast, acknowledges ESG has its critics. But for him, this class of investing is still making a difference.
“The fact that ESG investing has not only helped to launch several green tech companies, but also encouraged less socially-minded companies to compete in ESG spaces is now pretty much undeniable,” Lightstone said. “Tesla is invariably the best case in point. The amount of investment directed toward Tesla and other EV startups has been mind boggling.”
While money can be moved from one shareholder to another, “that’s not where the story ends.” He cited the example of Tesla when it was “able to raise large amounts of capital [at market prices] with rather little dilution to its stock.”
“Tesla did this three times in 2020, and with that money they were able to build more factories, scale up their production, lower their per-unit costs, increase their profit margins, and therefore increase the economic viability of their entire operation,” he explained.
This expansion created a domino effect for legacy automakers such as GM and Ford, who are investing more in their electric vehicle programs.
Investing intentionally and collectively
Tim Nash, founder of Good Investing, a company with a goal to help at least one million Canadians invest intentionally, argues that informed decision-making can make the impact needed.
“People spend more time choosing an avocado in the grocery store than they spend when choosing a mutual fund for their RRSP,” Nash said.
Instead, he urged people to think more about their portfolios and ways to diversify, including carving out part of their portfolios for investment just “for doing more good.”
“This is where we can invest part of our money into things like community bonds and impact investments,” he explained.
Community bonds, a debt financing tool, are issued by non-profit, charity or co-operative organizations. They allow these groups to take loans from community backers. The backers will eventually get paid interest for investing in an impactful project, while the organization enjoys access to capital.
During the interview, Nash noted that he was located at the Centre for Social Innovation, a non-profit that owns two buildings in downtown Toronto.
“How does a non-profit own two buildings in downtown Toronto?” he asked. “Community bonds. That’s how they were able to access capital.”
Then there is also shareholder activism, and this is where Nash highlighted how shares that are publicly traded on a secondary market can be used as a powerful tool if used collectively.
“If I sell my shares, someone else is going to buy them. However, if enough people sell their shares that will impact a company’s cost of capital,” he said. “This is a very important metric when it comes to how a company operates.”
One example Nash cited as proof of effective shareholder activism is the increased cost of capital for fossil fuel companies. At the same time, there has been an unprecedented shifting of investment capital into greener energy.
Better knowledge needed
The financial industry needs to delve into the environmental sciences, sustainability, and systems thinking to have a more well-rounded view on how to make a full impact, Nash says.
“I do think that a lot of the criticisms come from the financial industry, people who don’t have a background (in these topics),” he said. “ESG is a very broad concept… We need everybody rowing together in the same direction.”
While the government is in a position to lead, it’s still caught up in a four-year election cycle, he added.
“It’s even shorter if it’s a minority government, which we’re in right now,” he noted.
Time to start mandating metrics on ESG
Nash put the onus on the Ontario Securities Commission, which regulates companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, to start mandating disclosures of ESG issues, as other regulators have done.
For example, the SEC in the U.S. is focused on the climate aspect of ESG. It mandates that all publicly traded corporations publish their environmental compliance costs, and proposed new rules in March to standardize climate-related disclosures to investors. The rules would require businesses to disclose information about their direct greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the indirect emissions from the energy the business consumes.
In Europe, the trend tends to lean more toward the corporate governance aspect of ESG. Under the 2018 Non-Financial Reporting Directive of the European Union, companies are expected to disclose information on environmental, social, and employee-related problems, such as anti-bribery, corruption, and human rights performance.
In Nash’s view, Japan is ahead of the curve with its Financial Services Agency actually mandating climate risk disclosure.
“Investors, I think, to some degree are demanding more data and information and disclosure than what governments are requiring,” he said. “This is an area where investors are asking tough questions and pushing that forward. That said, investors can ask, and companies get to decide how they respond. Many of them are responding in different ways.”
ESG optimists and critics alike want to see those regular investors emboldened to make the difference the world is waiting for.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
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