Equity Thursday : Activist Investors Are In Demand

Headlines for the current equity market scandal involving Let’s Gowex, a Spanish Wifi provider that came after a short seller in New York highlighted discrepancies in their accounts in early July that finally resulted in the company’s CEO admitting falsifying accounts for many years.

Pre Crisis : Let’s Gowex S.A.  
29 April 2013  How the Founder of Spain’s Gowex Bet the Farm (Twice) and Won
One company that has managed to stand out and become a global brand is Let’s Gowex SA, a Madrid-based provider of free outdoor Wi-Fi services. Its growth, largely from increasing smartphone and tablet usage, has also been fueled by founder Jenaro Garcia’s willingness to bet the farm.

Or more specifically, his house. Twice.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-26/how-the-founder-of-spain-s-gowex-bet-the-farm-twice-and-won.html

1 Jul 2014
July 1 (Bloomberg) — Gowex shares fall 7.1% in 15 mins; trade 7.7% lower vs yday, biggest decline since May 16.
• Gotham City Research initiates coverage on co., says reported rev. overstated by at least 10xBloomberg

Gowex Looking at Possible Legal Action Against Gotham, CEO Says
July 1 (Bloomberg) — Gotham City Research’s report into Gowex is “defamatory,” CEO Jenaro Garcia Martin tells Bloomberg’s Rodrigo Orihuela by phone.
• No information that co. was contacted by Gotham City
• Gotham “mixing facts with lies”
• Shares down 26%, record since 2010 IPO

3 Jul 2014
Gowex Trading Suspended as Regulator Probes Gotham City Report
July 3 (Bloomberg) — Let’s Gowex SA trading was suspended in Madrid as Spain’s regulator investigates potential “market abuse” after a report by Gotham City Research LLC wiped about 870 million euros ($1.2 billion) off the company’s market value.

4 Jul 2014
Spain Business Group Asinver Files Gowex Claim With Prosecutor
Asinver provides copy of complaint by e-mail.
• Complaint filed with national prosecutor’s office is also against Gowex CEO Jenaro Garcia
• Complaint is for “falsification of financial and economic information, annual balances and use of relevant information”
• Gowex hasn’t been notified of complaint, company official, who cannot be named under corporate policy, says by phone

5 Jul 2014
Gowex Hires PWC for Audit of 2013 Financials, Co. Says

6 Jul 2014

8 Jul 2014
Bloomberg : Fall of Gowex Highlights Work of Short-Selling Caped Crusader Yu

This story sounds quite familiar in the mould of Bernie Madoff ? Or Muddy Waters’ attack on Sino Forest back in 2011.

Activist investors and small research firms like Muddy Waters, which is well known to many Singaporeans for their brazen attack on Olam, are all the rage these days.

And thanks to Muddy Waters, Olam stakeholders are now laughing their way to the bank on Temasek’s account.

And then we have the activist investors like the much hated Elliot Management Corp that are now more famously labelled  as “vultures” by the Argentine President for their attack on defaulted Argentine bonds, causing all other investors to miss their coupon. https://tradehaven.net/market/the-ugly-profitable-business-of-defaults/

The famous names in the business include Carl Icahn and David Einhorn who both sued Apple in recent years. All to the benefit of other shareholders as well. William Ackman is hogging the limelight these days with his triumphs in buying Allergan (+51% returns) and selling Herbalife (+16% returns) this year. http://online.wsj.com/articles/returns-from-activist-hedge-funds-are-causing-a-stir-1404773120

These activist investors are not the Warren Buffets who sticks with the business. They are the sharks in for the quick buck and they are mighty good at what they do to various success rates.

The latest tip I got is for BONY, Bank of New York Mellon Corp where Nelson Peltz of Trian Fund Management has just bought a 2.5% stake in and is seeking talks with management and the board. According to the article, the upside may be limited because BONY stock is already trading above analyst expectations, but there is no harm in buying some on a dip on a wild card entry.

It is unfortunate that there is less shareholder activism in Asia which I suppose could be a cultural symptom.

The markets could have been saved from the agony of the Blumont scandal of last year. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-03/singapore-stock-trade-probe-seen-as-test-of-credibility.html

I recall Temasek taking a back seat on their investment in Stanchart despite their unhappiness on the bank’s corporate governance some years back. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443768804578034210943017432

It is a chicken and egg situation. Perhaps the lack of shareholder activists is because Singapore companies are too squeaky clean and well governed ?


Ps : Does anyone know why Ezion dropped 2.4% today ?