JPMorgan Global Growth AGM and Twitter Fees

Yesterday I attended the Annual General Meeting of JPMorgan Global Growth and Income Plc (JGGI). This is a global investment trust as the name implies and the meeting was a “hybrid” AGM with a number of shareholders present in person but I attended on-line. Questions could be posed on-line but voting was only via proxy in advance for those attending on-line. I found this a perfectly satisfactory arrangement.

The meeting commenced with a presentation from the managers after brief words from the Chairman about the recent merger of the trust with the Scottish Investment Trust which almost doubled the size of the company. The result will be lower management fees.

The trust is a “high conviction, bottom-up stock selection” investor with 80% active share, i.e. it is definitely not a closet index tracker. As one investor pointed out, this results in a high stock turnover as they are sensitive to changes in the current valuations of companies.

The annualised return since 2008 has been 2.4% ahead of the MCSI All Country World Index per annum but they slightly underperformed last year. But it has a good long-term record and usually trades at a premium to NAV.

The manager emphasised that they aim to own the “best” companies but talked about the 185 different data points they measure on companies re ESG factors – a very tiresome subject that is now promoted by all fund managers. I just want them to make money!

There were some negative comments on Apple, Tesla and Lyft (they prefer Uber). They like Amazon, NXDP, LVMH etc where they are overweight.

There were a few questions from the audience. One was is the dividend covered by earnings? The answer was NO. The justification given was that it is best to invest in the best companies and not worry about the dividend cover. Would it not be best to reinvest the profits? Most investors prefer a reasonable dividend and the company has retained profits from capital that it can pay out.

All resolutions were passed based on the proxy counts before the meeting.

In summary this was a useful meeting which was well managed. For those who want good international coverage and like active management this is a share worth considering.

I shall be tweeting about this report of course. Also yesterday Elon Musk suggested that he would introduce a subscription service on Twitter at $8 per month which would give users some priority in search which he considered essential to defeat spam and reduce the number of adverts they see. There would also be verification of users who subscribed. In reality he is changing the business model from total reliance on advertising.

I am all in favour of those changes. More moderation is required on Twitter and if charging helps to reduce the number of garbage and abusive comments then so much the better.

Musk is also planning to halve the number of Twitter staff. It’s not many companies that have so many non-essential staff that half can be fired. It will be interesting to see the outcome of these changes for investors in Twitter.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Elon Musk Takes Over Twitter

The board of Twitter have accepted the bid from Elon Musk to acquire Twitter for $44 billion. How is he going to finance this? Apart from being the richest person in the world, probably by borrowing against his shareholdings in Tesla.

But users of Twitter will be concerned about his plans for the platform. This is what Elon said (in a tweet of course): “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential -I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

As an active twitter user I find these commitments to be positive. Authenticating all users should be done by all social media platforms to deter the abusive comments that are all too common. Twitter also needs to cease the political bias which is all too evident in its selection of who and what to suppress.

There are some simple changes to Twitter that might help. For example, allowing you to “dislike” tweets as well as “like” them, and allowing edits of tweets to enable one to correct the typos that creep in when using a mobile phone. There is also too much repetitive advertising on Twitter of late, often irrelevant to you.

Now would it not be good if we could get Elon Musk to take over the BBC and remove the left wing, woke bias from that also!

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Elon Musk and Twitter

Elon Musk has offered $43 billion to buy Twitter but the Twitter board have responded by announcing a “shareholder rights plan”. This should rather be called a “management rights plan” because it’s what is called a “poison pill” defence which allows the board of the company to defend against any hostile bid by permitting them to issue so many new shares at a big discount that the bidder is diluted and unable to gain control.

This is in my view unethical and unprincipled. Irrespective of your views on Twitter or on Elon Musk, the adoption of a poison pill is effectively a frustration of shareholder democracy.

There is a hint that Mr Musk would limit the amount of censorship that Twitter applies to posts. For example Donald Trump has been permanently suspended from Twitter for comments that Twitter judged to be an incentive to violence. You can read their judgement here:  https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension . It hardly appears to be a fair and unbiased view.

It’s not just Donald Trump that faces the wrath of the Twitter censors. For example news aggregator Politics For All (PFA) was banned for “distorting stories by focusing on specifics that would go viral”. Is that not what all news media do?

Free speech is an important constitutional right in the USA and when such a dominant medium such as Twitter chooses to interfere in politics or for commercial reasons then it needs to be censured. So Elon Musk might just be a better owner that the existing Twitter management.

The other issue is that the board of Twitter may simply be defending their well-paid jobs by trying to block a takeover. I hope they lose this battle.

Poison pill defences are of course not permitted in the UK under Takeover Panel rules. It is unfortunate that they are not outlawed in the USA.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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