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Norway sovereign wealth fund backs call for Toshiba to solicit buyout offers

Published 03/19/2022, 08:59 AM
Updated 03/19/2022, 10:40 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Toshiba logos are pictured at Toshiba Corp's annual general meeting with its shareholders in Tokyo, Japan, June 25, 2021.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, voted in favour of a shareholder proposal requesting Toshiba (OTC:TOSYY) Corp solicit buyout offers from private equity firms ahead of an extraordinary meeting on March 24.

The fund voted against the Japanese industrial conglomerate's plan to break itself up by spinning off its devices business, a voting record showed.

It owns 1.22% of Toshiba, according to Refinitiv.

Similarly, the State Board of Administration of Florida, with a 0.22% stake in Toshiba, voted against the management-backed break-up plan and in favour of the proposal from Singapore-based 3D Investment Partners.

Even though their stakes are small, support from such prominent institutional investors for 3D's proposal could add momentum to activist shareholder demands that the board fully explore alternatives to the break-up.

Earlier this week, one of Toshiba's external board directors said he would back 3D's proposal, breaking ranks with the public stance of the company board's.

Toshiba has said there is no change in the board's opinion in opposing the shareholder proposal and that it will continue to make every effort to gain shareholder support for the break-up plan.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Toshiba logos are pictured at Toshiba Corp's annual general meeting with its shareholders in Tokyo, Japan, June 25, 2021.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Glass Lewis, an influential proxy advisory firm, has backed 3D's proposal but rival Institutional Shareholder Services has not recommended voting for it even though it is opposed to the spin-off plan.

Explaining the rational for its vote, Norway's fund - operated by Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) - said it considers such factors as whether there is sufficient transparency and whether all shareholders are treated equitably when evaluating corporate transactions.

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