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Hyundai Motor wins proxy battle with Elliot; Ford CFO Bob Shanks to retire


* Shareholders of Hyundai Motor Group-owned companies, parts unit Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd. and carmaker Hyundai Motor Co., rejected activist investor Elliott Management Corp.'s proposals, including boardroom changes and a combined dividend payout of 7 trillion South Korean won, or $6.2 billion. Elliott, which wanted a total of five board nominees at Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis, said it was encouraged by an increase in the number of independent stakeholders calling for a change at the group, adding that it means that "the future holds further improvements at Hyundai," Reuters reported. Elliott and Hyundai are set for another showdown, over the group's planned restructuring that could hand over the reins of South Korea's second-biggest chaebol, a family-run conglomerate, to Euisun Chung, son of group chairman and CEO Mong-Koo Chung.

* Ford Motor Co. said its CFO Bob Shanks will retire at the end of 2019 and be replaced June 1 by Tim Stone, a former executive of and Snapchat parent Snap Inc. Stone worked at Amazon for 20 years and is the former CFO of Snapchat, the company said in a news release. Ford said Shanks will help Stone with the transition and "work on special projects through the end of the year."


* S&P Global Ratings called for increased operational cooperation among the three-way alliance members Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to meet their 2022 objectives, and it expects the decision-making speed to slow down at least until a new governance structure at Nissan. A push by Nissan for rebalancing its power equation with Renault, which owns 43% of the Japanese carmaker, would have negative credit implications for Renault if it agrees to cut its stake in Nissan, the rating agency noted. The alliance members were previously reported to be re-evaluating their midterm sales target of combined global sales of 14 million units set by former alliance boss Carlos Ghosn.

* Daimler AG is considering raising its stake in its Chinese partner BAIC Motor Corp. Ltd. to take advantage of China's more lenient foreign ownership rules, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The Mercedes-Benz parent reportedly asked Goldman Sachs to help it explore its options for a deal. Daimler holds 30.4% of BAIC's Hong Kong-listed shares, or 9.55% of the company.


* General Motors Co. is expected to announce a $300 million investment in its Orion, Mich., plant to build a new Chevrolet electric vehicle, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the plans. The new model was initially planned for production at one of the carmaker's facilities in China, but company executives are expected to attribute the location change to the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, according to the report. The investment reportedly could add hundreds of jobs to the Orion plant, which also makes self-driving cars for its GM Cruise LLC. The USMCA, which is set to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, still needs to be approved by the U.S. Congress.

* China's Evergrande Health plans to produce between 500,000 to 1 million electric vehicles through 2022, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. The company announced the move two days after Bloomberg News reported that the Evergrande unit plans to sell EVs "soon" and that the real estate group intends to become the world's biggest electric vehicle group within three to five years.

* Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk told employees to make scheduled deliveries the "primary priority" in the last 10 days of its first quarter, Reuters reported, citing a companywide email. The electric-car maker currently delivers cars at a daily rate 600% higher than its previous record, Musk said. Tesla plans to focus on deliveries to avoid the "delivery logistics hell" it endured in late 2018.

* Tesla removed the standard range battery pack for its Model S and raised prices on the long-range model by $2,000, Electrek reported. Separately, Tesla will bring back the referral scheme it ended in February with different mechanics, which grant 1,000 miles of free supercharging to the Tesla owner giving a referral and the new buyer.

* Škoda CEO Bernhard Maier said Volkswagen AG's Czech brand plans to roll out three electric vehicles based on VW's MEB platform in the next four years, Automotive News reported. The flagship model will be a coupe crossover, while the second model will be a "more conventional" SUV. Both models willl be built at the brand's local Mlada Boleslav plant and will be launched in early 2021. The third car will be the affordable variant, the executive said, and is still at its planning stage.

* Renault is piloting a "reversible electric charging" scheme, which enables vehicle-to-grid charging, in the Netherlands and Portugal. The carmaker will retool terminals and install reversible chargers inside electric vehicles or EVs. Vehicles with batteries over full capacity will be "capable of injecting electricity into the grid during peaks in consumption." The pilot schemes, which aim to reduce infrastructure costs and optimize supply of renewable energy, will be rolled out in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark.


* Electric-car maker Tesla sued former employee Guangzhi Cao over allegedly stealing confidential company information. The lawsuit alleges that a former engineer on Tesla's Autopilot team uploaded complete copies of Tesla's Autopilot-related source code to his personal iCloud storage account before "abruptly" leaving the company Jan. 3 and joining Alibaba-backed Xiaopeng Motors Technology Co., also known as Xpeng Motors, a company pursuing self-driving and electric vehicle technology. Tesla also filed on March 20 a lawsuit against some of its former employees and self-driving car startup Zoox Inc.


* Volkswagen, Swedish battery maker Northvolt AB and other European companies formed the European Battery Union or EBU, which will fund research, development and implementation of electric-vehicle batteries from 2020. The consortium will oversee the entire supply chain, from materials to end-of-life recycling.

* Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is piloting a scheduling program for electric-car service and maintenance with Envoy Technologies Inc., which provides a community based-fleet of electric vehicles. The tire-maker collects data from Envoy's vehicles to predict service needs and offer service to EV fleets through its outlets and mobile tire-changing vans.


* Uber Technologies Inc. has chosen the New York Stock Exchange for its upcoming IPO, Bloomberg News reported, citing a person familiar with the plan. The company is expected to make its trading debut in April, which could value the ride-hailing business at $120 billion. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* China's Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd., Dongfeng Motor Group Co. Ltd., Faw Car Co. Ltd., Alibaba and Tencent are setting up a 9.76 billion Chinese yuan fund to establish a ride-sharing company that focuses on new-energy vehicles, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. Changan, Dongfeng and FAW will each hold 15% of the venture, while Suning's investment arm will take the largest share at 19%, Reuters said.

* In February, EU vehicle registrations grew 4.7% year over year to 181,636 units, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA. Germany and France posted the largest year-over-year growth at 15.5% and 7.7%, respectively, while Spain reported the only slowdown at 3.8% year over year. Light commercial vehicle registrations grew 4.4% to 150,040 units, while heavy commercial vehicles grew 5.2% to 23,671 autos registered. The medium and heavy vehicle segment grew 6.5% from the prior-year period, ACEA said.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.14% to 29,113.36, while the Nikkei 225 gained 0.09% to 21,627.34.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.83% to 7,294.13, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.99% to 1,037.66.

On the macro front

The PMI Composite FLASH, the Existing Home Sales report, the Wholesale Trade report, the Baker-Hughes Rig Count report and the Treasury Budget are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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