These shares represented the entire stake in Nintendo owned by this government-controlled body, which was established in 2002 to buy stocks from banks. Such stock purchases were designed to prevent the wholesale liquidation of stocks, as banks were required to cut cross-shareholding arrangements with customers. The shares being sold equal about 1.4% of all the outstanding shares of common stock in Nintendo.
This government entity started selling shares in various companies in January 2007. It has until 2017 to unload all its holdings. Data on the size of its holdings in each company is not available.
Bloomberg reported that Ken Toyoda, a Nintendo Company spokesman, said by telephone that Nintendo initiated the sales by approaching the government-body. Reportedly, Nintendo is looking to widen its shareholder base and encourage shareholding by individual investors and it saw this as a way to achieve those objectives. The company noted that the popularity of its DS handheld player and Wii console have caused a growing interest in owning Nintendo stock.
What was Nintendo management drinking when they came up with this idea? Encouraging a large shareholder to liquidate their entire position is stupid and a disservice to all Nintendo shareholders. It artificially increases the supply of stock or float and acts as a significant depressant on the price of the stock.
Management’s portrayal of this as a way to expand the shareholder base is absurd and evidences a total lack of investment knowledge. It strongly suggests that Nintendo management needs to learn the basics about the care and feeding of shareholders.
If they want to increase the number of shareholders, there are at least two actions they need to immediately take. First, they need to institute a stock-split to reduce the current stock price to a lower level. How many gamers and other individuals can afford to pay more than 30,000 yen ($250) for an ownership position?
Second, they need to officially sponsor the issuance of Nintendo shares in the United States where Nintendo has a large and growing fan base. Those shares could then be traded on the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ and the company would enjoy much higher visibility. Currently unsponsored Nintendo ADRs trade in the pink sheets and there are only 50 million such shares registered with the SEC. Their underlying 6.25 million shares represent only about 5% of the total outstanding shares of Nintendo.
At the end of 2006, Nintendo had 866.6 billion yen ($7.2 billion) in cash and deposits and that was up 71.4 billion yen ($595 million) from December 31, 2005. The company clearly has more than enough cash and cash equivalents to simply buy the entire block of stock from the government entity and reduce the number of shares outstanding or use those shares to support the issuance of ADRs in the U.S. The cost of such a purchase would be about 67.3 billion yen ($557 million) as of the day of the secondary was announced and absorb less than 10% of Nintendo’s cash.
Nintendo management can still rectify their grave mistake by instituting a major stock buyback before, during, and after the secondary offering, which is scheduled for early March 2007. It is the only way they can easily make amends for the needless pain they have inflicted on their loyal shareholders by violating the fundamental tenets of maximizing shareholder value.
Disclosure: Author is long NTDOY.PK
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