This study focuses on activist funds during the second wave of activism after the implementation of the Stewardship and Corporate Governance Codes in Japan. Based on reports of large-scale shareholdings (acquisitions of 5% shares or more) submitted by activist funds between 2014 and 2019, this study finds that the stock returns of target firms react positively to the intervention of activist funds. The positive correlation intensifies for funds classified as hostile or domestic. Unlike in the first wave of activism, activist funds do not necessarily target low-margin or undervalued firms in the second wave of activism. Comparing financial indicators of the targets of the pre- and post-acquisition periods of large blocks of shares by activist funds, return on assets tends to decline more than that of their matching peer control firms, while the dividend payout ratio tends to rise more. This study contributes to the related research in three ways. First, this study adds empirical evidence on hedge fund activism outside the U.S., which is still somewhat scant. Second, this study is the first in the English or Japanese language literature to focus on the second wave of activism in Japan. Third, this study presents empirical results that are distinct from those in prior studies focusing on the first wave, perhaps because institutional changes forced activist funds to focus more on engagement rather than selecting cheap firms.
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