Last week, I received an email from HRnetGroup’s CFO Jennifer through my blog. Initially, I though it was a scam! My initial thought was I am just a “kacang puteh” retail investor, why would a listed company’s CFO want to talk to me?
After verification with the company’s website and annual report, it turns out to be a genuine correspondence! It would be a waste not to have a chat with her to find out more about the company. So we met over Zoom on Monday and chatted for half an hour.
The following is based on what I remembered. I did not take down any note during the conversation and what I wrote might not be totally correct.
Why the special dividend in January and going forward is interim dividend on the card?
The group continues to use the guide of giving out 50% of net profit after tax as dividend. In year when the company does well, they will definitely gives out more. And because they did well, they made a decision to give a special dividend in January to reward shareholders. Given that the world is just emerging from pandemic, the group wanted to be more certain of their earning before deciding to give interim or bump up the year end’s dividend. They wanted to ensure that any increase in dividend is sustainable and the last thing they want is to hike the dividend in one year and reduce it the following year.
How has China zero-covid stand affected the group’s North Asia expansion?
There is definitely impact from the lock down but unlike 2 years back, the lock down are shorter and much more manageable. The demand is still there and despite China lower growth rate, its huge market will cause this segment of the group to grow faster than Singapore’s market. So the group continues to believe that North Asia will contribute more than 50% of its growth profit in due time.
Albert Ellis took over as CEO in late 2020. He is a familiar face with the group which improves their exchange in ideas and thinking. The group posted a strong 2021 results and reversed its loss with a small profit, its first net profit after tax since 2017! It did an equity exercise and is now in net cash position. Staffline remains in the long term plan for the group.
Will the business be disrupted by on-line channels like LinkedIn?
Going digital is a must and the group actually subscribes to various channels including LinkedIn for their work. The group still believes a human touch is required, especially for middle and higher end position.
What can I do for you?
The group basically wanted to increase the liquidity of its shares and raise the company’s profile. So they are reaching out to retail shareholders and I guess I am just one of the few people who wrote about it. But obviously my influence is near to zilch and I recommended them to re-establish contact with The Smart Investor team. It was through the de-func Motley Fools Singapore that I got to know about HRnetGroup many years back.
Yes, they are aware only 22% of the shares are in public hands and while releasing more shares to the public is a possibility, they are still finding out public’s interest in the company. They do not want to give out more shares but then the public is still not interested in them.
With that we ended the conversation which I enjoyed. Jennifer came across as being genuine and down to earth, and she definitely knows her stuff. After the conversation, my conviction level with the company went up and am definitely holding on to my current stake. I am looking forward to the goodie that will be given during AGM.