This article was first published on Activist Insight Online on January 20, 2020. For more information about the product, click here.
Saba Capital Management has renewed its campaign at BlackRock New York Municipal Bond Trust, calling for a full self-tender, which could lead to liquidation or conversion into an open-end mutual fund.
Saba, a 12.1% shareholder in BlackRock’s bond trust, submitted a proposal regarding the self-tender offer for all outstanding shares of the company “at or close to” net asset value (NAV), a Friday regulatory filing revealed. If the tender attracts more than 50% of the trust’s shares, the trust should be liquidated or converted into an open-end mutual fund, Saba added.
Saba’s new push comes after a 2019 campaign that included demands for director seats, board declassification, and a self-tender at three funds managed by BlackRock. Although the funds held their annual meetings in July, the results have yet to be officially revealed, with the delay raising the ire of Saba.
Saba said in early December that its own calculations showed that some of its proposals passed by “a tremendous margin,” including one regarding the declassification of BlackRock New York Municipal Bond Trust’s board and another for a self-tender of 100% of BlackRock Muni New York Intermediate Duration Fund’s shares.
Two weeks later, BlackRock Muni announced plans to merge into BlackRock New York Municipal Opportunities Fund, an open-end mutual fund, in the first half of 2020. This came after Saba said that if its motion passed and more than 50% of the fund’s shareholders participated in the self-tender, the fund should liquidate or convert into an open-end mutual fund.
Separately, BlackRock Credit Allocation Income Trust announced the same day that it approved a tender offer for up to 10% of its stock at a price equal to 98% of the net asset value (NAV) per share. Last year, the activist sought to appoint a slate of four as trustees of BlackRock Credit and declassify the board but lost the proxy contest.
Saba’s latest request derives from the “problematic” discount at which BlackRock New York Municipal Bond Trust’s shares trade to its NAV. The activist said the 2019 average discount was 9.5%, with an even steeper 11% discount over the last three years. Currently, the fund’s shares trade at roughly 6% below NAV.
This “persistent” and “excessive” discount level “indicates that the market has lost faith in management’s ability to add to shareholder value,” Saba contended.
Saba first revealed a near-6% stake in the fund a year ago, raising the position several times since then.
Shares in BlackRock New York Municipal Bond Trust have gained 16% over the last 12 months.