(Bloomberg) — An influential body representing the U.K. asset management industry issued a rebuke to Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc after the luxury automaker lost all its female directors, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
The London-based Investment Association put out a so-called red top report on Aston Martin ahead of its annual general meeting Wednesday, according to the person. The report criticizes Aston Martin for its all-male board and cites a lack of diversity on its executive committee, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
Aston Martin’s three female directors all left the board in recent months. Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll became executive chairman in April, replacing Penny Hughes, after leading a bailout of the sports-car manufacturer. The other women on the board, Imelda Walsh and Tensie Whelan, previously said they wouldn’t stand for re-election and formally stepped down May 23.
The Investment Association’s members manage more than 7.7 trillion pounds ($9.7 trillion) of assets, according to its website. The body issues such reports through its research arm, the Institutional Voting Information Service.
Aston Martin shareholders approved most motions at Wednesday’s shareholder meeting nearly unanimously. About 5% of votes were cast against Stroll’s election to the board. The appointments of three other directors were also opposed by between 4% and 6% of investors at the meeting, the company said in a regulatory filing.
“It’s important to shine a spotlight on companies like Aston Martin who have restructured their board without any women,” said Denise Wilson, chief executive officer of the Hampton-Alexander Review, which lobbies for increased female representation on U.K. boards. “These are not the expectations of anybody for a publicly listed company.”
Digital services provider Kainos Group Plc and property investor Daejan Holdings Plc were the only members of the benchmark FTSE 350 Index with all-male boards last year, according to a November report from the Hampton-Alexander Review. Since then, Kainos has appointed a female director and Daejan has been taken private.
Aston Martin said in February it recognized its board composition wouldn’t be fully in line with U.K. corporate governance norms after the investment from Stroll’s consortium. The company only accepted the lack of compliance to support the capital raise and understands that “significant focus and effort” will need to be applied to the issue, it said in a filing at the time.
An Aston Martin spokesperson said “this is a particular focus for Mr. Stroll as incoming Executive Chair and his priority is to ensure the right balance of skills and experience to support the company in delivering its long-term potential.” The spokesperson added that Aston Martin was recruiting additional independent non-executive directors.
Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. had recommended “qualified support” to Aston Martin’s proposed directors. The impending lack of balance on the board is largely due to Stroll’s investment in the company, and Aston Martin plans to fix the situation “as soon as practically possible,” ISS said in a report before the AGM.
Aston Martin’s biggest institutional shareholders include Fidelity Investments, which owns nearly 3%, and Invesco Ltd., which holds about 2%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Vanguard Group Inc. and Hargreaves Lansdown Asset Management Ltd. each have about 1.2%, the data show.
In May, Aston Martin ousted CEO Andy Palmer and named Tobias Moers, who leads Daimler AG’s Mercedes-AMG performance division, as his replacement.
Palmer, who joined Aston Martin from Nissan in 2014, had been focused on the introduction of the pivotal DBX, a $189,000 sport-utility vehicle at the heart of Aston Martin’s comeback strategy. The company is banking on the model selling in higher volumes than the iconic sports cars made famous in the early James Bond movies.
(Updates with vote outcome in fifth paragraph)
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Google Is in Advanced Talks to Invest $4 Billion in Jio Platforms – BNN
Google is in advanced talks to buy a stake in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s digital arm Jio Platforms Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. technology company has been discussing an investment of about US$4 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. An announcement could come as soon as the next few weeks, according to the people.
Details of the potential deal could change, and negotiations could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said. Representatives for Google and Reliance didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Google would join Facebook Inc. and a slew of private equity firms piling into billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s technology venture, which has already attracted more than US$15 billion of investments in just a few months. An arm of Qualcomm Inc. was the latest in Jio’s growing list of high-profile investors, who also include Silver Lake Partners and Mubadala Investment Co.
Shares of Reliance Industries pared losses in Mumbai on the Bloomberg News report. The stock slipped about one per cent as of 2:42 p.m. local time, outperforming a 1.8 per cent decline in S&P BSE Sensex index. Reliance shares have more than doubled since a low in March to a record on investments into Jio.
On Monday, Google said it plans to spend US$10 billion over the next five to seven years to help accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in India. The amount could be put into partnerships and equity investments among others.
Sundar Pichai, who was born in the country and is now chief executive officer of parent Alphabet Inc., said the outbreak of the coronavirus has made clear the importance of technology for conducting business and for connecting with friends and family.
Google, founded in 1998 in Silicon Valley, entered India six years later with offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The India business has since grown into one of the company’s most important. The country now has more than 500 million internet users, second only to China, with growth that has drawn all the American technology giants.
In the last decade, Google has successfully launched several products in India, including a Google internet Saathi service to bring women in rural areas online and its popular Google Pay service.
–With assistance from P R Sanjai
Shell Makes Bet on Digital LNG Trading With GLX Investment – BNN
(Bloomberg) — Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas merchant, is making a bet on the trade’s digital future by taking a minority investment in the online platform developer GLX Digital.
GLX is among a handful of companies using web-based trading to modernize the world of physical commodities and help deepen liquidity. Since creating its online LNG auction hub, the Perth, Australia-based company has shifted toward helping customers create their own digital trading systems.
Shell is the highest profile investor in GLX, which also include Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. It dominates global LNG trade, handling about 22% of the world’s volume, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Neither Shell nor GLX would disclose the value of the investment or size of the stake.
“This digital platform is a natural step in the continued evolution of the global LNG market and as a leading LNG player, we are keen to be part of this,” Steve Hill, an executive vice president for Shell, said in a statement. “The sophistication of the GLX software in combination with the high caliber and quality of the management team gives GLX a strong base for the future.”
Founded in 2015, closely held GLX has about 23 employees and is trying to grow to 40 in the next year, Chief Executive Officer Damien Criddle said by phone. It has about 75 companies signed up, and revenue from subscriptions is up approximately 600% year-on-year and is “in the seven figures,” he said, without providing further details. The company isn’t profitable yet as it focuses on growing and eventually expanding into other commodity sectors.
Criddle said the company’s shift away from controlling its own online LNG marketplace and toward helping companies build their own has resonated with traders, who prize the privacy of their deals.
“We’re digitalizing the LNG chain, but we’re not standing in the middle collecting data,” Criddle said. “What became clear to us is that while our customers like data, they don’t like sharing their own data, and we respect that.”
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Norway's KLP drops investment ban on Brazil's Petrobras as governance improves – TheChronicleHerald.ca
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Petrobras said on Monday it is again eligible to receive investments from Norway’s largest pension fund, KLP, which had blocked investments in the state-owned oil firm following revelations of a sprawling corruption scheme.
Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as Petrobras is formally known, said considerable improvement in its governance following the so-called Operation Car Wash corruption probe led KLP to declare Petrobras as eligible for investment.
KLP did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Operation Car Wash uncovered Brazil’s largest-ever corruption scheme in which hundreds of politicians and businesspeople were implicated in exchanging bribes for public contracts with Petrobras.
In a 2016 statement announcing its exclusion of Petrobras from its portfolios, KLP said it had 33.74 million NOK ($3.57 million) invested in Petrobras shortly before the decision was made.
(Reporting by Jake Spring and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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