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At A Cross Road: Samsung Electronics considers splitting firm in two

By Sam Edem
The Brand
The Brand

In a series of developments in recent months arising primarily from the Note 7 fiasco, there have been increasing pressure from some investors for Samsung Electronics to break itself into a holding unit and an operating company to boost shareholder value.

In response, the global technology giant has finally confirmed it is considering dividing the company into two separate firms. The Asian technology giant also disclosed its intention to increase dividends and said it would continue to buy back more shares. In October, the company was forced to stop production of its flagship smartphone model after it failed to resolve battery problems that resulted in overheating and the devices catching fire.

Samsung said it would bring in "external advisers to conduct a thorough review of the optimal corporate structure. It further stated that "the review does not indicate the management or the board's intention one way or another." Samsung also said it would pay out half of its free cash flow to shareholders for 2016 and 2017 and raise the dividend for 2016 by 36% compared to the previous year. In a bid to improve governance, the firm said it would nominate at least "one new, international, independent board member" as well as create a separate governance committee.

The company's statement comes after US activist hedge fund Elliott Management called for the firm to split into a holding unit for ownership purposes and a separate operating company. The fund argued that a split would simplify the company structure and make a valuation of the firm's assets clearer and easier. Presently, companies which form part of the wider Samsung Group are linked through a complicated web of cross-shareholding; linking Samsung Electronics to many other Samsung's firms and affiliates ranging from shipping, to heavy industries to insurance business, hence investors are unable to get a clear idea of what each individual Samsung company is actually worth.

However, the benefit of splitting Samsung Electronics into two companies would be that the cross-shareholding would affect only the holding company while the operating unit could be assessed separately - making it a lot easier to arrive at an efficient company evaluation. The proposal has won support from several of Samsung's investors and it is also thought that it would give back more control to the founding Lee family behind the company.

 

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