We all know that for a company to operate, there is always a need for capital. Capital can come in the form of cash input from the owners of the company and, if the company has been profit-making, funds can also be re-channeled into the business instead of distributing to the owners. If the business is a public-listed company, then additional capital can be raised through IPOs and rights issues. All these form the equity capital for the business. There is also another type of capital known as debt capital. This involves borrowing from financial institutions such as a bank or through unsecured borrowing such as raising bonds and notes. Then, there is also preferential share, which depending on how one looks at it, can be seen as equity capital or debt capital. All these form the various avenues for the directors to tap upon to enable the company to operate as an on-going concern and, of course, to optimize shareholders’ value.
When a business is in need of funds, the directors would have to look into what channels can be tapped to inject funds into the business before the business run into cash-flow problems. In the past one to two years, we have seen several offshore and marine related companies and business trusts running into cash-flow problems because the business were deprived of capital injections. Swiber Holdings, Erza Holdings and Rickmers Maritime are just few eye-catching examples that cropped up recently due to difficulty in seeking additional funds for their businesses.
At the other extreme, there are also companies that have ‘extra’ capital in the form of cash that it becomes necessary to carry out a capital reduction in order to optimize the capital structure of the business. Capital reduction can come in several forms, and this usually ends positively for shareholders. It can be carried out through share-buyback program in which a company buys back its own shares and then cancels them out at the treasury. This, in the way, reduces the number of shares in the market and thus increases share price per share. OSIM as well as several American companies had previously done this after emerging from the global financial crisis in year 2009.
Another form of capital reduction can be in the form of returning capital back to shareholders. A good example is IPC. IPC had been a penny stock before its consolidation of 10:1 in 2015. Its share was around 3 cents in year 2004 and around 6 cents during the global financial crisis. During the normal times, the stock price had been oscillating between 9 cents and 17 cents. The business had undergone a significant transformation changing from a PC manufacturing company in the 90s to a hotel operator today. With the sale of 7 hotels in Japan followed by a share consolidation of 10 shares into 1, the company returned a total of about $136.5m to the shareholders. Hence on the balance sheet of the FY 2016 financial report, the share capital was reduced from $169,658,000 to 33,190,000. Each shareholder got cash return of $1.60 per share after consolidation even though the number of shares that one holds remains unchanged. This means that those investors who had purchased the share at an average price of 16 cents or below before the shares consolidation would have recouped and profited for investing in IPC. Of course, the share capital on the balance sheet of IPC’s financial statement is set back by $136.5m, meaning that the scale of the business has been down-sized, but who really cares if we are in a business with no money down and had enjoyed the dividends that had been distributed previously. Hopefully, going forward, the management continues to deliver and help increase shareholders value. This would help maintain the stock price and possibility of future dividends in the currently scaled-down business. Perhaps, the cash return had been partly due some pressure from the substantial shareholder, Mr Ooi Hong Leong, who owns 30% of the business. But, again as an investor, is it not what we are looking for – an investment that provides us a solid return somewhere in the future with consistent income along the way?
At the moment, unfortunately, the stock has been quite illiquid due to the mandatory stock consolidation. Even though there is a trading price of between 50 and 60 cents per share, it is still not worth trading the stock as it is difficult for one to buy or sell the shares optimally due to its trading liquidity, which resulted in steep share price changes. With the only hotel business left in China, it is hoped that company delivers another magic to maintain the share price that come with future dividends. Of course, it does not preclude the fact that it may have to raise funds for expansion in the future. But at the moment, it’s a nice feeling of enjoying a significant profit and, at the same time, participating in a business with no money down due to its capital reduction exercise.
Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy. Analyses of some individual stocks can be found in bpwlc.usefedora.com. Registration is free.