Lloyds Rights Issue complexity: Um, why don’t we just change the rules?
The upcoming Lloyds rights issue is in fact quite simple. They are giving shareholders the right to buy ~50p worth of new shares for each of the currently existing shares they hold. The new shares will be offered at a discount, but their price has not yet been set, so, obviously, you cannot yet determine how many new shares you can buy. But you’ve been told, albeit somewhat cryptically, what you need to know right now: if you want to take up your rights, you’re going to need to find 50p for each share you own when the rights issue process starts on 20th November. [Summary paragraph added 8:45am 4/11/09].
But is it just me or is the organisation and presentation of this rights issue more complicated than it needs to be? [Reworded 8:45am 4/11/09].
I quote in full section 10 of Lloyds’ announcement of its rights issue:
“10 Share Subdivision
Under the Companies Act, it is not permissible for a company to issue shares at a discount to their nominal value, which, in respect of the Existing Ordinary Shares is currently 25 pence per share. It is proposed that the Company carries out the Share Subdivision which will reduce the nominal value to 10 pence per share. This provides the Company and the Joint Bookrunners with greater certainty that the Issue Price will be able to be set at a 38 per cent. to 42 per cent. discount to TERP [the Theoretical Ex-rights Price, which itself depends on the number of new shares being issued, so a bit of algebra is needed to determine the issue price for 38-40% discount based on the current trading price of the existing shares] irrespective of market conditions. The Board believes that the Share Subdivision also provides the Company access to the best available underwriting structure and terms. Although no decision has currently been made as to the Issue Price, in no circumstances will the Issue Price be below 15 pence. As noted in paragraph 8 of this letter, the Issue Price is expected to be announced on 24 November 2009, two days before the General Meeting. The Proposals are conditional on, amongst other things, the completion of the Share Subdivision.
It is proposed that, pursuant to the Share Subdivision, each existing Ordinary Share of 25 pence in issue at the close of business on the date of the General Meeting will be subdivided into one ordinary share of 10 pence in the capital of the Company (a “10p Ordinary Share”) and one deferred share of 15 pence in the capital of the company (a “Deferred Share”). The purpose of the issue of Deferred Shares is to ensure that the reduction in the nominal value of the Ordinary Shares does not result in a reduction in the capital of the Company.
Each Ordinary Shareholder’s proportionate interest in the Company’s issued ordinary share capital will remain unchanged as a result of the Share Subdivision. Aside from the change in nominal value, the rights attaching to 10p Ordinary Shares (including voting and dividend rights and rights on a return of capital) will be identical in all respects to those of existing Ordinary Shares. No new share certificates will be issued in respect of the 10p Ordinary Shares as existing share certificates for existing Ordinary Shares will remain valid in respect of the same number of 10p Ordinary Shares arising from the Share Subdivision. The number of Ordinary Shares of the Company listed on the Official List and admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s main market for listed securities shall not change as a result of the Share Subdivision. The Share Subdivision will not affect the Group’s or the Company’s net assets. Consequently, the market price of a 10p Ordinary Share immediately after completion of the Share Subdivision should, theoretically, be the same as the market price of an Ordinary Share immediately prior to the Share Subdivision.
In addition, it is proposed that, pursuant to the Share Subdivision and as required by Article 3.1.4(i) of the Articles of Association, each existing Limited Voting Share of 25 pence in issue at the close of business on the date of the General Meeting will be subdivided into one limited voting share of 10 pence (a “10p Limited Voting Share”) and one Deferred Share. Aside from the change in nominal value, the rights attaching to 10p Limited Voting Shares will be identical in all respects to those of existing Limited Voting Shares. No new share certificates will be issued in respect of the 10p Limited Voting Shares as existing share certificates for existing Limited Voting Shares will remain valid in respect of the same number of 10p Limited Voting Shares arising from the Share Subdivision.
The Deferred Shares created on the Share Subdivision becoming effective will have no voting or dividend rights and, on a return of capital on a winding up of the Company, will have the right to receive the amount paid up thereon only after Ordinary Shareholders have received, in aggregate, any amounts paid up thereon plus £10 million per Ordinary Share.
No share certificates will be issued in respect of the Deferred Shares, nor will CREST accounts of shareholders be credited in respect of any entitlement to Deferred Shares, nor will they be admitted to the Official List or to trading on the London Stock Exchange or any other investment exchange. The Deferred Shares shall not be transferable at any time, other than with the prior written consent of the Directors. The rights attaching to, and restrictions upon, the Deferred Shares are set out in Resolution 6.
At the appropriate time, the Company may repurchase the Deferred Shares, make an application to the High Court for the Deferred Shares to be cancelled, or cancel, or seek the surrender of the Deferred Shares using such other lawful means as the Directors may determine.”
Got that? You’ll be tested on it later!
In fact, all section 10 says is that to get round some stupid rule, and in case Lloyds shares fall before the rights issue completes, we’re all going to be issued with “deferred shares”. These are totally worthless. I just hope they don’t actually show on my trading account, cluttering up the screen and statements.
Frankly, who cares about the nominal value of shares? And, if the rule that companies can’t issue new shares at below the nominal value of existing shares is so easily circumvented, does it really have any point? Maybe the law could simply be changed to add “unless approved at an AGM”.
I’d rather the army of accountants and company lawyers running large companies were employed making sure the business doesn’t screw up, not worrying about worthless deferred shares. Someone was obviously paid to write the paragraph that ensures the deferred shares are worthless. On the other hand, maybe it was worth it for the amusement value. I like it so much I’ll quote it again, this time with a bit of emphasis:
“The Deferred Shares created on the Share Subdivision becoming effective will have no voting or dividend rights and, on a return of capital on a winding up of the Company, will have the right to receive the amount paid up thereon only after Ordinary Shareholders have received, in aggregate, any amounts paid up thereon plus £10 million per Ordinary Share.”
Perhaps they should index that £10 million to RPI. We might experience hyperinflation.
Lloyds is also waiting till the last minute before telling us what the issue price of the new shares will be, in case the short-sellers get their teeth into the situation. Actually I don’t care very much. What I want to know is how much I’m going to have to put in for each share I own. Then I can calculate the total amount I need to find. Shareholders are being asked for about 50p per share they own at the record date for the issue (20th November), calculated by dividing the amount to be raised (£13.5bn) by the number of shares in circulation at the moment (just over 27bn, a number which won’t change materially over the next couple of weeks). Lloyds’ announcement could easily have included the exact amount as a headline (I haven’t read all 200,000 pages of the documents they’ve issued today).
Rights issues remain dysfunctional as I explored here, here and here around 18 months ago (when HBoS was passing a hat around, ironically enough). All that’s been done is to try to speed the rights issue process up, which introduces new problems: the regulators haven’t speeded up the process of moving money about, and the post, for obvious reasons, is even less reliable right now (let’s hope we can all exercise our rights online or by telephone, eh?). As I said in my previous posts on this topic, it must be possible to devise a way of raising funds from shareholders that isn’t vulnerable to attack by short-sellers. Such a scheme would surely save on underwriting fees, for starters. Lloyds will only raise £13bn net from its £13.5bn rights issue. I can live with putting money into basically sound companies that need it, but it sticks in the craw that so much disappears in transaction costs (and in this case, a windfall tax in all but name). Especially when I’m not going to get any dividends for another 2 years!
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