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Janus Henderson under pressure as Trian eyes consolidation



When Janus Capital and Henderson Global Investors agreed a deal in 2016, it was touted as being transformative for the two struggling midsized asset managers.

Andrew Formica, one of the architects of the all-stock merger and former co-chief executive of the enlarged company, said the move would create a “a new breed of active manager” with global heft, allowing it to withstand the relentless pressures on traditional stockpickers.

Fast forward to four years later and Janus Henderson may be about to be pushed towards doing another deal to allow it to survive. The London-based fund group has been targeted by Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners, which bought a 10 per cent stake in it last month and called for a fresh round of consolidation among underperforming asset managers.

The activist investor’s targeting of Janus Henderson, which oversees $358bn in assets, reflects shareholder dissatisfaction with the company since its tie-up.

“Janus Henderson hasn’t flourished over the past three years,” says Will Riley, who holds a position in the group in his Guinness Global Money Managers fund.

The group has been hit by higher-than-average investor outflows, losing $68.8bn since the start of 2018. This has hit revenues and affected its share price, which has declined almost 14 per cent since the transaction completed in May 2017. The share price fall stood at about 30 per cent before Trian disclosed its stake.

Janus Henderson’s woes are testament to just how brutal the headwinds facing active managers have become, as well as exemplifying the risks inherent in megamergers.

As consolidation in asset management gains momentum once again, Janus Henderson’s experience points to the thorny choices ahead for active managers, as they consider how to scale up while not destabilising their workforce and clients.

Janus Henderson has struggled to shine since its 2017 merger

The Janus Henderson tie-up was hailed as a way of allowing two managers with limited geographic overlap to compete on the global stage. The idea was to help London-based Henderson, which ex-CEO Mr Formica grew by buying up undervalued investment boutiques in the aftermath of the financial crisis, to break into America while boosting Janus’s profile in Europe.

These results, however, have not yet come through. According to Morningstar, the organic average growth rate of the combined company has lagged that of its US listed asset manager peers between 2015 and 2019, and it is forecast to continue to struggle over the next four years.

Janus Henderson chief executive Dick Weil, who took sole charge of the group in 2018 after leading Janus into the deal, is the first to acknowledge the company’s slow pace of progress. Speaking to media at a conference this week, Mr Weil said that he was confident that Janus Henderson is on track to establish a global presence “that neither independent firm could have afforded separately”. But he added that this process was taking a “frustratingly long amount of time”.

CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert says that Janus Henderson has been hindered by its position as a mainly active investment house at a time when the investor flight into index-tracking funds has gathered pace.

“The merger was designed to gain scale and diversification but what it did not address was the secular trend towards passive investing, which has accelerated in the last four years,” Ms Seifert says.

But Janus Henderson has also been hit by specific issues linked to its integration, such as tensions sparked by cultural differences between the two companies.

One former employee points to the contrast between the chummy, relationship-based culture of Mr Formica’s Henderson and the more structured, practical way of doing things at Janus under the leadership of Mr Weil, a former lawyer.

“On the Henderson side there was a very loyal core group of people who had worked together for a long time. Blending an organisation like that with a US firm, which has a more direct way of communicating, was challenging,” the person says.

The divisions were not helped by the merged company’s unusual geographic structure — it is headquartered in London, with dual listings in New York and Australia, and an investment hub in Denver — and its initial co-CEO structure.

Another ex-employee points to the company’s failure to appoint fresh blood to its board — it has appointed only one director unaffiliated with either faction since the merger — as a source of its cultural divisions.

Against this tumultuous backdrop, Janus Henderson has lost a number of high-profile investment staff. The departures have included a number of teams, such as the six-strong high-yield bond and emerging market equities teams.

Meanwhile, several Janus Henderson funds have experienced dire performance, further unnerving clients. Intech, the company’s quantitative investment division, has been particularly hard hit: as at the end of 2019, 84 per cent of the assets run by the unit lagged behind their benchmarks on a five-year basis.

Investors have pulled money from Janus Henderson since its merger

But Mr Weil is upbeat about the merged group’s prospects. At the conference this week, he rejected suggestions of a divided company, describing the group as “genuinely global and not dominated by one culture or the other”.

The chief executive also distanced himself from suggestions that Janus Henderson needs to join forces with a competitor. “There is a lot a good reason and foundation for being sceptical about mergers,” he said. Most deals do not go “anywhere near as well as planned”, he added, pointing to the Janus-Henderson tie-up as an exception to this trend.

It is not yet clear what Trian’s plans are for Janus Henderson or whether it will succeed. The asset manager was only made aware of Trian’s stake the day before it was officially disclosed and has not granted board seats to Trian, as Invesco did earlier this month. Trian declined to comment.

Shareholder Mr Riley believes that the company has the potential to turn itself round on its own. He wants to see it focus on cutting its cost base by 5-10 per cent and repurchasing stock to boost its share price.

He intends to continue holding Janus Henderson based on what he sees as encouraging fund performance potential — according to Credit Suisse, about 55 per cent of the manager’s assets have top Morningstar ratings, compared with an industry average of 32 per cent — combined with its low valuation and 5.7 per cent dividend yield.

Should M&A be called for, Mr Riley says that it would make more sense for Janus Henderson to be acquired by a larger rival, as these deals tend to be less disruptive than mergers of equals, where it is unclear who is in charge.

Ms Seifert agrees that there is reason for optimism at Janus Henderson. “If it can stem investor outflows, its headwinds could become a tailwind,” she says.

However, the fact that the company still languishes among the fund industry’s “squeezed middle” means it is “not inconceivable” that it will seek a partner in future to boost its assets and gain exposure to more passive strategies, she predicts.

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A carbon registry leaves polluters with nowhere left to hide




The writer is the founder and executive chair of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think-tank

No one yet knows which countries will extract the last barrel of oil, therm of gas or seam of coal. But the jostling has started. Every nation has reasons to believe it has the “right” to continue fossil fuel extraction, leaving others to deal with the climate crisis.

In the Middle East, oil producers can argue that the cost of extraction is low. In Canada, they market their human rights record. Norwegians trumpet the low-carbon intensity of their operations. And in the US under Donald Trump, they touted the virtues of “freedom gas” and called exports of liquefied natural gas “molecules of freedom”.

The dilemma for governments is that if one country stops producing fossil fuels domestically, others will step in to take market share. And so the obligation to contain emissions set out in the Paris Agreement risks being undermined by special pleading.

In the UK, the furore over plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria the year that the country is hosting the UN’s climate summit is indicative of the contrary positions many countries hold. Facing one way the government says it is addressing climate change. But looking the other, it consents not just to continued extraction, but to support and subsidise the expansion of production.

Climate Capital

Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here 

To keep warming under the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5C, countries need to decrease production of oil, gas and coal by 6 per cent a year for the next decade. Worryingly, they are instead planning increases of 2 per cent annually, the UN says. On this course, by 2030 production will be too high to keep temperature rises below 1.5C. The climate maths just doesn’t work.

One of the problems in attempting to track fossil-fuel production is the lack of transparency by both governments and corporations over how much CO2 is embedded in reserves likely to be developed. This makes it difficult to determine how to use the last of the world’s “carbon budget” before temperature thresholds such as 1.5C are exceeded.

Governments need a tool that establishes the extent to which business as usual overshoots their “allowance” of carbon. There needs to be a corrective because the cost competitiveness of renewable energy, and the risk of stranded energy assets, has not stopped governments heavily subsidising fossil fuels. During the pandemic, stimulus dollars have been dumped into the fossil-fuel sector regardless of its steady financial decline, staggering mounds of debt and falling job count. 

This is why my initiative and Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit group, are developing a global registry of fossil fuels, a publicly available database of all reserves in the ground and in production. This will allow governments, investors, researchers and civil society organisations, including the public, to assess the amount of embedded CO2 in coal, oil and gas projects globally. It will be a standalone tool and can provide a model for a potential UN-hosted registry.

With it, producer nations will have nowhere left to hide. It will help counter the absence of mechanisms in the UN’s climate change convention to restrain national beggar-thy-neighbour expansion of fossil-fuel production.

No country, community or company can go it alone. But governments can draw from the lessons of nuclear non-proliferation. First, they must stop adding to the problem; exploration and expansion into new reserves must end. This must be accompanied by “global disarmament” — using up stockpiles and ceasing production. Finally, access to renewable energy and low-carbon solutions must be developed in comprehensive and equitable transition plans.

The choice is between phasing out fossil fuels and fast-tracking low-carbon solutions, or locking-in economic, health and climate catastrophe. A fossil-fuel registry will help governments and international organisations plan for the low-carbon world ahead.

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Hasty, imperfect ESG is not the path for business




The writer is a global economist. Her book ‘How Boards Work’ will be published in May

Good environmental, social and governance practices take a company from financial shareholder maximisation to multiple stakeholder optimisation: society, community, employees. But if done poorly, not only does ESG miss its sustainability goals, it can make things worse and let down the very stakeholders it should help.

To be sure, the ESG agenda should be pursued with determination. But there are a number of reasons why it threatens to create bad outcomes. The agenda is putting companies on the defensive. From boardrooms, I have seen organisations worry about meeting the demands of environmental and social justice activists, leading to risk aversion in allocating capital. Yet innovation is the most important tool to address many of the challenges of climate change, inequality and social discord.

Pursued by $45tn of investments, using the broadest classification, ESG is weighed down by inconsistent, blurry metrics. Investors and lobbyists use different evaluation standards and goals, which focus on varied issues such as CO2 emissions and diversity. Metrics also depend on business models.

Without a clear, unified compass, companies that measure themselves against today’s standards risk seeming off base once a more consistent regulator-led direction emerges (for example, from worker audits, the COP26 summit and the Paris Club lender nations).

ESG is not without cost and the best hope for long-term success lies with business leaders’ ability to stay attuned to its impact and unintended consequences. For example, while the case for diversity is incontrovertible, efforts at inclusion should account for the possible casualties of positive discrimination.

Furthermore, despite ESG advocates setting a strong and singular direction for governance, organisations have to maintain their operations and value while managing assets and people in a world where cultural and ethical values are far from universal. While laudable, a heightened focus on ethics (such as human rights, environmental concerns, gender and racial parity, data privacy and worker advocacy) places additional stress on global companies.

It is often asked if advocates appreciate that ESG is largely viewed from the west’s narrow and wealthy economic perspective. To be truly sustainable, ESG demands global solutions to global problems. Proposals need to be scalable, exportable and palatable to emerging countries like India and China, or no effort will truly move the needle.

Much of the agenda is too rigid, requires aggressive timelines and lacks the spirit of innovation to achieve long-term societal progress. Stakeholders’ interests differ, so ESG solutions must be nuanced, balanced and trade off speed of implementation against the breadth and depth of change.

Business leaders are aware of the need for greater focus and prioritisation of ESG. We also understand that deadlines can provide important levers for senior managers to spur their organisations into action. After all, in the face of pressure for a solution to the global pandemic, vaccines were produced in months instead of the usual 10 years.

I live at the crossroads of these tensions every day. Raised in Africa, I have lived in energy poverty, and seen how it continues to impede living standards globally. As a board member of a global energy company, I have seen much investment in the energy transition. Yet from my role with a university endowment, I have also been under pressure to divest from energy corporations. 

Business leaders must solve ESG concerns in ways that do not set corporations on a path to failure in the long term. They must have the boldness to adopt a flexible, measured and experimental agenda for lasting change. In this sense, they must push back against the politically led narrative that wants imperfect ESG changes at any cost.

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UAE’s Taqa seeks to shine with solar energy push




From a distance, the 3.4m panels making up the United Arab Emirates’ largest solar power plant look like a massive lake.

But Noor Abu Dhabi, nestled between camel farms and rolling sand dunes, is no mirage. The 1.2 gigawatt facility — the world’s largest single-site plant — produces enough electricity for around 90,000 homes. Owned by Taqa, an Abu Dhabi state-backed utility, with Japan’s Marubeni and China’s JinkoSolar, it will celebrate its second anniversary of operations this month.

Staff constantly scan for repairs so production can be maximised during daylight hours, while every evening more than 1,400 robotic cleaners wipe the dust from the banks of solar panels to boost efficiency.

Noor and another Taqa project — an even larger 2GW solar plant under construction in Al Dhafra, nearer the capital — are emblematic of the company’s ambitions to recast itself as a force in clean energy.

It has outlined a new sustainable strategy with a goal for renewables to form 30 per cent of its energy mix, compared with 5 per cent now, and plans to boost domestic power capacity from 18GW to 30GW by 2030. It will set itself a carbon emissions target later this year.

“We want to transform Taqa into a power and water low-carbon champion in and outside the United Arab Emirates,” said Jasim Husain Thabet, chief executive of the power provider, which is majority owned by government holding company ADQ and listed on the emirate’s bourse.

Renewable sources account for a small part of the UAE’s energy supply

Taqa’s push into renewables is a key element of the UAE’s ambition to have clean energy form half of its energy mix by 2050, with 44 per cent from sources such as wind and solar and 6 per cent from nuclear power.

Last year, the oil-rich emirate had 2.3GW of renewable energy capacity, or seven per cent of the power production mix, mainly from solar power, according to Rystad Energy, a research firm. It forecasts that the UAE is on track to reach its 44 per cent target by 2050.

Although many Gulf governments have targets to boost solar and wind power, the UAE has been out in front.

The Al Dhafra plant is expected to boast the world’s most competitive solar tariff when complete. The facility, a joint venture with UAE renewable pioneer Masdar, EDF and JinkoPower, plans to power 150,000 homes when it comes online next year, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 720,000 cars off the road.

“This is about being a good citizen,” said Thabet. “But it is also attractive for global investors keen on environmental sustainability, it fits in with our main shareholder’s priorities and brings down financing costs.”

Yet Taqa’s sustainability pitch could fall flat with investors scrutinising environmental concerns.

Taqa has committed to capping production at its overseas oil and gas assets, which span fields in Canada, the North Sea and Iraqi Kurdistan. But although it has not ruled out selling the hydrocarbons assets that it bought during a spending spree in the 2000s, divestment is not imminent.

“If the right opportunity comes we will consider it, but right now our focus is on enhancing operations and reducing emissions,” Thabet said.

The UAE, a leading oil exporter and member of Opec, is also committed to increasing its crude oil capacity in the coming years. The country is working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but still has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

But Mohammed Atif, area manager for the Middle East and Africa at DNV, a renewables advisory firm, said the UAE, like other major oil and gas producers such as Norway and the UK, are working for a more sustainable future. 

“Yes, the roots and history of the UAE are grounded in hydrocarbons, but they are aware of the challenge of climate change,” he said. “It is a transition, not a revolution, and that takes time.”

US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry: ‘There’s no reason why oil-producing countries cannot also be a key part of tackling the climate crisis’ © WAM/Handout via Reuters

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, visited the Noor plant while attending a regional climate change dialogue in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, saying such “incredible energy projects” would “set us on the right path” to achieving the Paris Agreement goals that aim to limit global warming.

“There’s no reason why oil-producing countries cannot also be a key part of tackling the climate crisis,” he said in a tweet. 

At the same time, Taqa is eyeing opportunities to expand in renewables beyond the UAE. Last year it merged with Abu Dhabi Power Corporation, creating an integrated utility company with ADQ owning 98.6 per cent.

The government is expected to increase the free float via a share offering, Thabet said, declining to provide further details.

With exclusive rights to participate in power projects in Abu Dhabi over the next decade, the company is now mulling how to leverage that guaranteed cash flow abroad.

Thabet said the company would focus on projects and investments that burnish its sustainable credentials. It wants to build 15GW of power capacity outside the UAE. The group currently produces 5GW internationally, including 2GW in Morocco.

“We believe in solar and [photovoltaic] projects, so we will focus on that — but if there is an opportunity outside the UAE, such as onshore or offshore wind, then we will explore that,” he said. Taqa would also consider investing in international renewables platforms to reach its targets, he added.

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