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Infosys shares extend losses as leadership issues outweigh share buyback
August 21, 2017 / 4:27 AM / a month ago

Infosys shares extend losses as leadership issues outweigh share buyback

File photo: Infosys Chief Executive Vishal Sikka attends a news conference in Mumbai, India, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A planned $2 billion share buyback by Infosys (INFY.NS) failed to lift shares in India’s No. 2 IT services company, which dropped on Monday for a second straight trading day on concerns over a dispute between its board and founders.

Infosys shares fell 5.4 percent to a more than three-year closing low, extending Friday’s 9.6 percent decline. The declines have wiped $5.2 billion off its market value, after Chief Executive Vishal Sikka’s resignation following attacks from retired founders of the company.

Infosys’s board over the weekend announced a share buyback programme of up to 130 billion rupees ($2 billion) at a significant premium. Analysts said while it could lend some support to the stock, management issues will likely play a bigger role.

Brokerages including JPMorgan and Nomura have downgraded Infosys on worries the once poster child of India’s IT sector will struggle to stick with a turnaround strategy begun by Sikka, who became the first non-founder CEO in 2014.

Investors are also concerned about the rift between the founders, who own 12.75 percent of the company, and its board, who the founders have accused of governance lapses.

Sikka, who pushed Infosys to focus on areas such as cloud computing, big data and AI, announced his resignation after a public spat with the founders led by Narayana Murthy.

GOVERNANCE ISSUES

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Infosys is pictured inside the company's headquarters in Bengaluru, India, April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo

V. Balakrishnan, a former finance head at Infosys who still owns shares in the company and has sided with Murthy in the dispute, said a restructuring of the board was needed, calling for some board members including Chairman R. Seshasayee and Co-Chairman Ravi Venkatesan to quit.

“Even if you get a new CEO, I don’t think that is going to solve the problem because the core issues are governance issues,” Balakrishnan told Reuters.

“The board members should take responsibility - they have not handled issues well, they have clearly let down investors, the governance standards have clearly come down.”

The dispute comes at a time when India’s more than $150 billion information technology sector has seen growth slow amid growing calls against outsourcing, visa curbs and a push to hire more local workers in its biggest market, the United States.

“There is now a real risk that ... the force and ability with which the strategy gets executed will suffer at least near term, a risk that Infosys can ill-afford in the current difficult climate for Indian IT,” JPMorgan analyst Viju K. George wrote in a note, downgrading the stock to “neutral”.

Morgan Stanley said Sikka’s exit could lead to a possible slowdown in the execution of a new strategy and that there were risks of more management and board-level exits, and further issues of corporate governance being brought to light.

“We are not worried about Infosys’s ability to attract fresh talent, but we worry about the possible impact on growth and margins,” the Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note.

Additional reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Rafael Nam; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and David Holmes

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