Hipgnosis Songs Fund said on Monday it would not pay its investors a dividend in October because of new, lower projections for the amount of revenue it can expect from the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board for certain streaming royalties, causing its stock to dip more than 10%.
Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s board said it had to withdraw the proposed interim dividend of 1.1325 pence per share, which it had announced to shareholders on Sept. 21, after its independent portfolio valuer, Citrin Cooperman, “materially reduced” Hipgnosis’ projected payments from CRB III, causing the board to cut its expectations for CRB III retroactive accrual to $9.9 million, from $21.7 million. Hipgnosis’s board said it “expects to declare and pay future dividends as targeted,” subject to discussions with its lenders.
The announcement comes 10 days ahead of the London-listed music royalty trust’s first shareholder continuation vote, where investors are asked to vote on whether they want to keep the investment trust going or liquidate the fund.
Hipgnosis Songs Fund made history in the music industry when it went public in July 2018 as the first publicly listed company offering investors the chance to earn returns from the royalties on famous songs like “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Neil Young’s catalog and more.
But the company is facing some of its first, serious growing pains as the high interest-rate environment has made acquiring more catalogs more expensive and drawn investors’ interest away from alternative investments like music rights to high-yielding bonds. Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s share price is down more than 25% over the past year and was trading at 66.26 British pence ($0.90 USD) as of 8:50 a.m. New York time.
The board has announced a number of initiatives since September that appear to be aimed at addressing investors’ concerns ahead of the Oct. 26 continuation vote, including the proposed sale of $440 million worth of catalogs from its portfolio to the private side of Hipgnosis — Hipgnosis Songs Capital, which is backed by private equity goliath Blackstone. The board said it would use the proceeds to buy back up to $180 million of its own stock, pay down $250 million of its revolving debt and to introduce new, lower advisory fees to be paid to Hipgnosis Song Management Limited.
The board has said it hopes the proposal, which must be approved by shareholders, would help to “re-rate” the company’s share price in the eyes of investors and the broader market.
The board said it learned of the reduction in expected payments around Sept. 30, after Citirn Cooperman “reduced its expectations of industry-wide retroactive payments in relation to the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board’s decision in relation to royalties payable to songwriters for the period covering 2018-2022 (“CRB III“) for its valuation of the Company’s portfolio.”