Fiera Capital Corp.’s founder and chief executive officer bought about $3.7 million in shares, a move that ensures he keeps control of the board of the Canadian asset manager, for now.
(Bloomberg) — Fiera Capital Corp.’s founder and chief executive officer bought about $3.7 million in shares, a move that ensures he keeps control of the board of the Canadian asset manager, for now.
Jean-Guy Desjardins’ share purchase means that a limited partnership he controls will have slightly more than 20% of Fiera’s stock, according to a company statement. That number is important because it gives that partnership special voting rights to choose two-thirds of the board, insulating the firm from activist investors.
If the partnership’s stake were to fall below 20% for 90 days, those rights would end and the company would change to a structure in which all shares have equal weight in choosing directors.
The partnership is known as Fiera Capital LP, sometimes shortened to Fiera LP.
“Given the current ownership is just above 20%, we will closely monitor Fiera LP ownership going forward (including purchase price obligations settled in equity),” Gary Ho, an analyst with Desjardins Securities, said in a note to clients. (Desjardins Securities is a unit of a Quebec-based financial institution that is a minority investor in Fiera LP — but otherwise isn’t affiliated with Jean-Guy Desjardins.)
Desjardins surprised the market in January by returning as CEO at the age of 78, a little more than a year after he’d stepped down. But equity investors have not given him much credit so far.
Fiera shares have fallen 36% this year on concerns about the long-term health of its business and the sustainability of its rich dividend. The stock currently yields more than 15%. Fiera has about C$164 billion ($121 billion) under management, most of it in stocks and fixed income.
Read More: Fiera CEO Desjardins Says Goal Is to Fix Firm, Not Sell Parts
“I remain committed to Fiera Capital and find the opportunity to purchase shares at the current price particularly attractive,” the CEO said in a news release.
The controlling partnership’s ownership stake in Fiera has been shrinking over time. In 2019, it was nearly 26%, according to corporate filings at the time. In April, it was 22%. The percentage is falling because of shares being transferred out of the partnership by current and former employees of Fiera. It now stands at 20.04%.
Fiera Capital didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Paris-based Natixis SA was seen as a potential long-term investor that would help the existing management group at Fiera keep control when it purchased an 11% equity stake in Fiera Capital in 2019. But its sold its interest in the firm less than three years later.
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