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Hyundai Motor Group gains support in Elliott proxy fight

A key South Korean pension adviser is siding with Hyundai Motor Co.'s parent company in its proxy fight with New York hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.

Seoul-based Korea Corporate Governance Service, or KCGS, is urging shareholders of Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd., which are both owned by Hyundai Motor Group, to vote against Elliott's calls for both companies to pay a combined 8.3 trillion won in dividends in 2019, Yonhap News Agency reported March 13, citing a statement.

Elliott's proposal challenges Hyundai Motor's offer to pay 1.1 trillion won to its shareholders this year and Hyundai Mobis' offer to pay a total of 1.1 trillion in dividends over the next three years.

Local advisers Sustinvest and Daishin Economic Research Institute also came out in support of the South Korean chaebol, a family run industrial conglomerate, with Sustinvest saying "excessive dividends could hurt a company's mid and long-term value, and the dividend request by Elliott was not based on the Hyundai affiliates' earnings in 2018," Yonhap reported.

The pension advisers join U.S. proxy adviser Glass Lewis & Co. LLC, which earlier expressed its support for Hyundai's proposals.

KCGS is also recommending that shareholders vote against Elliott's director nominees "on concerns of possible conflict of interest, leakage of technology and unnecessary managerial intervention," according to the report.

The news comes just days after independent proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. recommended that Hyundai shareholders support Elliott's proposal to improve governance at Hyundai.

Elliott's calls for change at Hyundai prompted the carmaker to scrap its planned spinoff of Hyundai Mobis' module manufacturing and after-sales parts segments in May 2018.

Hyundai's shareholders will meet March 22 to vote on the proposals.

As of March 13, US$1 was equivalent to 1,130.75 South Korean won.