As a result of our effective campaign, the buyback price of Unilever shares was increased from Rs 9,700 to Rs 15 , 000 per share by KSE, raising the total payout from approx. Rs 32 billion to Rs 50 billion. The SECP and KSE are also reportedly paying serious attention towards upgrading of delisting rules and regulation in Pakistan to protect minority shareholders’ rights. We are continuing the campaign to target the next elected government for improvement of voluntary delisting regulation which we expect soon to be the part of stock market rules and regulations.
Unilever’s Delisting In Pakistan
ACACIA Partners, an investment advisory firm based in New York, held 4.1% shares of Unilever Pakistan. When Unilever announced to delist itself from the stock markets in Pakistan in November 2012, the minority shareholders including ACACIA Partners, Arisaig, etc opposed the company’s decision as it was against the basic principle of shareholding and posed a potential long term loss. However, as per existing laws, Unilever can technically get delisted offering a buy back price for the outstanding shares as the regulations were not supportive enough for minority shareholders to have their say in the process. Thus, ACACIA not only demanded improvement in delisting regulations for protection of the minority shareholders’ rights in such cases and fair price offer for their shares which should have been determined after straight deliberation between the buyer and seller.
The rules of voluntary delisting are not only lenient but could be termed as most lenient among similar markets, the fact that foreign or even local investors when deciding to invest in a certain company would not only need to have a clear picture but also enjoy a sense of ownership. The rules thus, are scaring away the investment as they are worried about being stripped of their right of ownership with this kind of flimsy rules and regulations .
ROLE OF THE PASSAGE
For the short term goal: to increase share buyback price, we had only two weeks before the offer was to be approved by KSE. We worked on war footings with the key journalists and opinion makers to create awareness among them about the issue and weak delisting rules. A series of well-informed stories in national media created hype of the issue highlighting the adverse impact of Unilever delisting on the market and demanding fair price for the share to give minority shareholders at least some handsome return on their investment as the shareholders were not satisfied with the offered price of Rs 9700 per share.
Long term: to have the rules improved and brought at par with the international practice, stories and write ups continue to appear in national media to highlight the facts to the new government’s administration.