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投资理财

WeWork上市了,但是进不了标普500指数

Ellen Florian 2019年08月25日

科技公司尤其热衷于多层股权结构,令投资者不满。

这家共享办公空间公司在上周的招股书中把“包容性文化”放在了核心位置。

不过在其普通股能否被“包容”进重要指数这个问题上,公司发出了警告:“标准普尔道琼斯(S&P Dow Jones)和富时罗素(FTSE Russell)已经宣布调整公开上市公司股票被纳入特定指数的合格标准,其中就包括标普500指数。调整之后,拥有多层股权结构的公司无法被纳入这些指数。”

翻译过来就是:WeWork无法被纳入指数,这意味着它无法享受热门指数基金在股票购买上的优势。

WeWork计划发行三类股票:A类股每股拥有一票投票权,而B类股和C类股是“高投票权股票”,每股拥有20票投票权。这会导致联合创始人和首席执行官亚当·诺依曼拥有公司控制权。“作为由一家创始人主导的公司,我们相信这种投票结构符合我们在创造股东价值方面的利益。”

不过,一些指数基金的提供者和股东权利组织不这么认为。涵盖养老基金、基金会和捐赠基金的非盈利股东权利组织机构投资者理事会(Council of Institutional Investors)的副主任艾米·博勒斯表示:“按照原则,你的股权应该和投票权一致。一份股票、一份投票权,这是优秀的企业管理结构秉持的基本原则,也是大部分长期股东关注的重点。”她表示,每股20票投票权不符合常理。一般来说,高投票权群体平均每股拥有10票投票权。根据机构投资者理事会的数据,2019年上半年上市的公司中,有26%设有不平等的股权结构。这些公司中只有20%会逐渐放弃这种政策。

“滴答作响的定时炸弹”

公司的创始人坚称,掌控公司可以让他们着手做好长期规划,避免受到季度投资者预期的干涉。问题在于高投票权股票可以有效地锁定对公司的控制。博勒斯表示:“长期来看,这个结构就是滴答作响的定时炸弹。某些情况下,即使是最优秀的首席执行官也可能失误,这时候,流通股股东没有能力施加任何影响。”她指的是Facebook的马克·扎克伯格,尽管他近来连连犯错,却免于弹劾。机构投资者理事会支持七年到期就取消高投票权股票的届满条款。而WeWork确实有届满条款,但该条款却极不寻常:如果亚当·诺依曼和妻子丽贝卡不能在上市十周年之内捐赠10亿美元,这些股票的投票权将会从20票削减为10票。

科技公司尤其热衷于多层股权结构[尽管值得一提的是,今年上市的非科技公司李维斯(Levi’s)也设置了两类股票]。不过长期投资者对此并不乐意,随着热门IPO越来越多地采用这种策略,他们纷纷抱怨。临界点是2017年Snap的公开上市,当时公司没有给公众提供任何投票权。投资者爆发了。他们没法让美国证券交易委员会(SEC)或证券交易所做些什么,于是向指数基准公司标准普尔道琼斯、富时罗素和明晟(MSCI)施压,要求对方采取行动。

2017年7月,标准普尔道琼斯指数宣布,标普综合1500指数以及其成分指数——标普500指数、标普中型股400指数和标普小型股600指数——将不再纳入拥有多层股权结构的公司。指数中已有的公司可以得到豁免,不受影响。考虑到WeWork的股权结构,它无法被纳入标普500指数。

同样在2017年,富时罗素也要求其指数成份股至少有5%的股票为公众所有,而已有指数成份股须在五年内满足这一规定。截至2019年6月,富时全球股票指数体系(FTSE Russell Global Equity Index Series)中还有20只股票尚未满足5%的门槛,它们的豁免期将在2022年9月到期;36只股票尚未得到承认,因为它们在规定颁布时并未满足5%的投票权门槛。目前还不清楚WeWork是否满足门槛,该公司尚未公布其投票比例。

在与投资者进行了长达18个月的磋商之后,明晟在2018年10月宣布,明晟全球可投资市场指数(MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes)“将继续向全球的机构投资者反映完整的可投资资产局势”。公司还表示,他们会编制新的指数,为希望避开投票权不平等企业的投资者提供新的选择。

不过,利用指数构成来推动治理改革是否合适?简而言之,按照资金管理公司黑石(BlackRock)的说法,并非如此。在标普和富时罗素决定剔除投票权不平等的企业之后,黑石发声强烈支持所有股东获得平等的投票权,却反对以把企业剔除出指数基金作为改善治理的手段。他们当时表示,这会“限制我们依托指数的客户接触可投资上市公司的渠道,剥夺他们获得投资回报的机会” 。

佛罗里达大学法学院的安德鲁·文登研究了多层股权结构的指数剔除情况,他表示,如果以最近的上市情况作为指标,这种改革无法限制Pinterest和Lyft这样的独角兽发行这类股票。他说:“它们基本等于是在对标普和富时罗素嗤之以鼻。创始人和首席执行官愿意以较低的股价换取长期控制公司命运的能力。”

流动性降低

不过随着指数投资日益发展,无法被纳入重要的指数基金意味着购买股票的投资者会更少。需求减少意味着市场流动性降低,从长期来看这会拖累公司的估值。对于需要发行股票募集资金的公司而言,这是一大难题。明晟ESG的负责人雷米·布莱恩德表示:“如果你希望从最多的投资者那里获得资金,不在投票权上做手脚会是加分项。”不过他指出,主动的投资者也有很多,如果公司拥有引人注目的增长率和利润率,依然可以吸引资本。

正因如此,热门的科技公司依然能够设立多层股权结构。

值得注意的是,一家公司最近调整了方针。Carlyle Group在7月底表示他们将成为一股一票制度的公司,旨在将“管理权授予所有股东”,“通过争取被纳入各大指数和基准,从而提高Carlyle对广大被动和主动投资者的吸引力”,以此改善“交易流动性”。

不过,即使WeWork调整股权结构,变成一股一票制,被动投资者也无法通过标普500指数凑凑热闹,因为还有另一条麻烦的规定:想要被纳入指数,公司的通用会计准则净盈利需要为正。而WeWork的招股书中显示,公司2018年的收入为18亿美元,净亏损高达16亿美元。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

The co-working company put its “culture of inclusivity” front and center last week in its IPO filing.

But when it comes to “inclusion” of its common stock in important indices, the company issued a warning: “S&P Dow Jones and FTSE Russell have announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500. These changes exclude companies with multiple classes of shares of common stock from being added to these indices,” the filing states in its risk factors.

Translation: WeWork won’t be included—meaning it also won't enjoy the advantage of popular index funds being required to buy shares.

WeWork is going public with three classes of stock. Class A shares will carry one vote each. Class B and Class C shares are “high-vote stock,” which carry 20 votes per share. As such, co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann will control the company. “As a founder-led company, we believe that this voting structure aligns our interests in creating shareholder value.”

Some index fund providers and shareholder rights groups believe otherwise. “On principle, you should have a vote consistent with your equity stake, says Amy Borrus, Deputy Director of the Council of Institutional Investors, a shareholder rights non-profit comprised of pension funds, foundations, and endowments. “One-share, one-vote is a bedrock tenet of good corporate governance as far as most long-term shareholders are concerned.” Twenty votes per share, she says, is out of the ordinary. Supervoting classes generally carry 10 votes per share. In the first half of 2019, according to CII statistics, 26 percent of IPOs had unequal class share structure. Only 20 percent of those companies will phase it out.

A “ticking time bomb”

Founders maintain that keeping control of the company liberates them to manage for the long term outside of quarterly investor expectations. The problem is that supervoting shares can effectively lock in control. “This structure is a ticking time bomb for the long term,” says Borrus. “At some point, even the best CEOs are going to stumble, and when that happens, public shareholders are powerless to have any influence.” She points to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who despite recent blunders, is immune to challenges. CII favors a sunset period for supervoting shares of seven years. In WeWork’s case, there is a sunset clause, but it's a highly unusual one: Such shares decrease from 20 votes per share to 10 votes per share if Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah fail to give away $1 billion in 10 years.

Technology companies have been particularly keen on multi-class stock structures (although it should be noted that non-technology company Levi’s went public this year with a dual class structure as well). But long-term investors don’t like it and have complained as more and more hot IPOs employed the tactic. The tipping point came when Snap filed for a public offering in 2017, giving zero voting power to the public. That’s when investors, well, snapped. Unable to get the SEC or the stock exchanges to do anything about it, they pressured the index benchmarking companies—DowJones S&P, FTSE Russell, and MSCI—to take action.

In July of 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices, announced that the S&P Composite 1500 and its component indices—S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600—would no longer add companies with multiple share class structures. Existing companies in the index were grandfathered and not affected. Considering WeWork’s stock structure, the company cannot be included in the S&P 500.

Also in 2017, FTSE Russell required that 5% of shareholder voting rights of a company must be in public hands for index inclusion, with a five-year grandfather period for constituents to comply. As of June 2019, 20 stocks in FTSE Russell Global Equity Index Series have not yet complied with the 5% voting rights threshold. Their grandfather period is set to expire in September 2022; 36 stocks have not been admitted because they did not meet the 5% voting rights hurdle since the rule was introduced. It is still unclear whether WeWork will meet the threshold. The company has not yet released its voting percentages.

After an 18-month long consultation with investors, MSCI announced in October 2018 that the MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes “will continue to reflect the complete investable equity universe for international institutional investors.” The company also said it would create a new index for investors who want options that account for unequal voting.

But is index composition the right forum to push governance reform? In short, according to money management firm BlackRock, no. In the wake of S&P’s and FTSE Russell’s decisions to exclude, the asset manager voiced strong support for equal voting rights for all shareholders, but opposed excluding companies from index funds as an approach to improve governance which “could limit our index-based clients’ access to the investable universe of public companies and deprive them of opportunities for returns,” they stated at the time.

If recent IPO history is any indicator, according to Andrew Winden, at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, who has studied multi-class index exclusion, the reforms aren’t exactly holding unicorns like Pinterest and Lyft back from issuing such stock. “They’re basically thumbing their nose at S&P and FTSE Russell,” he says. “Founders and CEOs are willing to accept lower stock prices in exchange for being able to control the destiny of the company for a longer period of time.”

Less liquidity

But as index investing continues to grow, exclusion from important funds means fewer people invest in your shares. Less demand translates into less market liquidity, and becomes a drag on valuation in the long term. For companies that need to raise money by selling shares, that’s a problem. “If you want to raise capital from the maximum number of investors, then having a clean profile in terms of voting rights is a plus,” says Remy Briand, head of ESG at MSCI. He notes, though, that there are still plenty of active investors, so companies with compelling growth and profitability profiles will still attract capital.

And as long as that’s the case, hot tech companies are able to continue to use multiclass voting structures.

Notably, one company has recently switched course though. At the end of July, Carlyle Group said it would become a one-share, one-vote corporation with the goal of delivering “governance rights to all shareholders” and improving “trading liquidity by increasing Carlyle’s appeal to a broader group of passive and active investors through potential inclusion into indices and benchmarks.”

But even if WeWork were to change its stock structure to one-share, one-vote, passive investors still wouldn’t get in on the action through the S&P 500 because of another pesky rule: for inclusion on the index companies are required to have positive GAAP earnings. WeWork’s S-1 filing revealed a loss of $1.6 billion on $1.8 billion of revenue in 2018.

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