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Scott Schultz, the largest shareholder in the John Hancock Financial Trends Fund (JHFT) with over 15% of the outstanding shares, has filed that he wants the fund’s management to consider a merger with an open end fund, or a liquidation. Assuming that the fund’s management opposes doing either of these, it is difficult to predict how a proxy battle would turn out.

There are currently no other 5% owners of JHFT, so the outcome would depend on the votes of small shareholders. This normally gives the advantage to the fund’s management, but JHFT has traded at a double-digit discount fairly consistently since the late 1990’s, which may convince shareholders to try to get out of the fund near NAV if the opportunity is presented to them.

However, if another one or two shareholders take a 5%+ position in the fund, then there would be a good chance that JHFT would either merge away or be liquidated. But I may be getting ahead of this situation. JHFT’s management has not responded yet, so they may come to an agreement with Scott Schultz that negates the need for a proxy fight.

JHFT 1-yr chart:

Source: John Hancock Financial Trends Fund Headed To Proxy Battle? (JHFT)