Paper Shortage Derails Major Abrdn Shareholder Vote

Stop the presses! UK-based asset management firm Abrdn is unexpectedly delaying a shareholder vote on a potential £1.5 billion acquisition. Why? Ironically, Abrdn had to stop the presses.

You’ve heard of chip shortages rankling the tech industry, and food shortages hitting restaurants and grocers. Now, a paper shortage has prevented Abrdn from printing and delivering a 120-page acquisition document to all 1.1 million of its shareholders.

Limited Paper In A Paperless World

When Abrdn, a global investment firm, proposed to acquire retail funds platform Interactive Investor, company leaders wanted to complete the shareholder ballot before a March 1 earnings announcement. Because there isn’t enough paper to go around, the takeover vote has been delayed until mid-March, as first reported by Sky News.

But Abrdn isn’t the only place encountering paper problems. Due to everything from e-commerce’s insatiable hunger for cardboard boxes and rejuvenated readers spurring an unprecedented 21% increase in printed book sales since 2019, demand for paper has surged during the pandemic– even as remote white-collar workers have swapped pointless office-wide memos for e-mail and Slack. All this comes as supply chain issues hit paper at its point of origin:

  • Paper comes from wood pulp, which has seen prices spike from $700 to $750 per metric ton in 2020 to nearly $1,200 in 2021, according to a report from printing company Sheridan.
  • Exacerbating the crunch, according to Sheridan, is a one-two punch of environmentally-conscious decisions: China, the world’s leading paper producer, has recently shuttered 279 pulp and paper mills as part of an environmental initiative, just as much of the world scrambles to replace plastic products with paper alternatives.

You’ve Got (Actual, Physical) Mail: Couldn’t Abrdn just e-mail the document? No. A UK law says companies must send a printed circular to all shareholders prior to large deals. With proxy season arriving later this quarter (meaning even more giant printed packets), we sure hope Brits value recycling way more than they value PDFs.

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