Shareholder activism at Sony
MAY 14, 2013. Daniel Loeb, CEO of US-based activist fund Third Point LLC (Third Point), flew to Tokyo for meetings with government officials and to hand deliver a letter to Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corporation (Sony). The letter from Loeb revealed that Third Point had purchased a 6.9% stake in Sony and proposed that Sony spin off up to 20% of its Entertainment Division to reduce its debt and strengthen its ailing Electronics Division. At a corporate strategy meeting on May 22, 2013, Hirai explained that Sony would thoroughly review the proposal from Third Point with external financial advisors, and discuss it with Sony’s board in order to decide on Sony’s stance. Sony hired financial advisors from both Citigroup and Morgan Stanley to assess the proposal. A month after the initial proposal from Third Point, Sony’s share price was smoldering between JPY 1,900 and JPY 2,000 – a little higher than before the proposal, but losing its momentum. On June 17, 2014, Loeb sent another letter to Hirai, and announced that Third Point had acquired additional Sony shares through cash-settled swaps, increasing its total ownership from 6.3% to 6.9%. Loeb explained the reason for the additional purchase as his trust in CEO Hirai’s management policy. This news pushed Sony’s share once again onto the plateau of JPY 2,000. It is clear that Loeb caused the shake-up and contributed to the share price hike in Yahoo, and consequently made large profits from the sale that occurred approximately two years after the initial investment. Could he do the same with Sony? Should Hirai believe in Third Point’s proposal and follow its advice? Or should he fight with Third Point and reject it? With the market’s high attention to Sony’s whereabouts, Hirai was forced to make a decision. Did Third Point’s calculation make sense? Would Loeb get a seat on Sony’s Board?
The case provides students with an opportunity to discuss important questions regarding shareholder activism and its impact on value. Why did TP target Sony? What are the synergies between entertainment and other business units of Sony? How does its performance compare to peers? What is the business model for Third Point? How are they different from traditional institutional investors such as pension funds?
Sony, Manufacturing, Electric and Electronic Equipment
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