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Jun 20, 2019

'Grossly inadequate': HBC shareholder blasts privatization bid

Amanda Lang: While HBC is public they still have a responsibility to shareholders

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Another Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC.TO) shareholder is decrying executive chairman Richard Baker’s proposed bid to take the company private.

In a letter addressed to the HBC board of directors’ special committee tasked with evaluating the offer, Rennie Capital Chief Financial Officer Matt Rennie said the buyout group’s valuation of the company’s assets is “grossly inadequate.” Vancouver-based Rennie Capital owns over 420,000 HBC shares.

“We are a significant long-time shareholder of HBC and we wish to communicate our vehement opposition to the take-private proposal,” Rennie wrote in the letter dated July 19. “The take-private proposal flagrantly undervalues the assets of HBC and would, if recommended by the special committee, irreparably favour the interests of the Baker Group to the detriment of all other shareholders.”

A spokesperson for Baker declined to comment when contacted by BNN Bloomberg.

Baker’s proposal would see his group representing 57 per cent of HBC’s shares buy out the remaining shareholders at a price of $9.45 per share. Rennie argues that HBC’s assets, including real estate properties and retail banners, are worth at least $33 per share.

The letter echoes the comments of activist investor Jonathan Litt, founder of CIO of Land and Buildings. Litt told BNN Bloomberg the bid was “woefully inadequate.”

“It is obvious to anyone with eyes that HBC is worth a multiple of the $9.45 offer,” Rennie added in his letter.

Rennie said the special committee should serve the interests of all HBC shareholders “irrespective of your personal dealings with members of the Baker Group.”

Rennie Capital also accused Baker of attempting to “enrich himself” at the expense of minority shareholders.

The letter concludes by imploring the special committee to reject the take-private proposal, saying “to do otherwise would be to make a travesty of corporate governance.”

A spokesperson for HBC declined to comment on Rennie’s letter, citing the special committee’s ongoing review of the privatization proposal.

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