Several years ago, the Delaware Supreme Court held, in Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, that when a “sale” or “break-up” of a company becomes “inevitable,” the duty of the board of directors is not to maintain the independence of the company or otherwise give priority to long-term considerations, but rather to obtain the highest price possible for the shareholders in the transaction (that is, to maximize short-term value). To satisfy that duty, when confronted with these situations, the board is generally supposed to conduct an auction (or, as clarified in subsequent decisions, a “market check”) that ensures that the final buyer is, in fact, the best bidder available. In the words of the court, in this “inevitable” “break-up” or “sale” scenario (which, however, the court did not precisely define), the directors’ duties shift from “defenders of the corporate bastion to auctioneers charged with getting the best price for the stockholders.”
Posts Tagged ‘Acquisitions’
Many factors drive banks toward acquisitions, including increasing efficiency due to size, loan/deposit growth opportunities, or expansion of geographical footprints. However, one consideration is always dominant—improving return on investment, or ROI. Whether short, intermediate, or long-term, ROI is the most critical factor in the M&A decision.
Prior to the recession, bank M&A had settled into a well-established, time-proven approach. Bank management established targets and criteria, while investment bankers, lawyers, and accountants facilitated the M&A structure and process, weighing tax and accounting issues. Accretive to earnings gained acceptance as one of the primary justifications for a transaction.
Following a robust 2012, the financing markets in 2013 continued their hot streak. Syndicated loan issuances topped $2.1 trillion, a new record in the United States. However, as in 2012, financing transactions in the early part of 2013 were devoted mostly to refinancings and debt maturity extensions rather than acquisitions. In fact, new money debt issuances were at record lows during the first half of 2013. The second half of 2013, though, saw an increase in M&A activity generally, and acquisition financing in the fourth quarter and early 2014 increased as a result.
In the paper, Do Managers Manipulate Earnings Prior to Management Buyouts?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate accounting manipulation prior to buyout transactions in the UK during the second buyout wave of 1997 to 2007. Prior to management buyouts (MBOs), managers have an incentive to deflate the reported earnings numbers by accounting manipulation in the hope of lowering the subsequent stock price. If they succeed, they will be able to acquire (a large part of) the company on the cheap. It is important to note that accounting manipulation in a buyout transaction may have severe consequences for the shareholders who sell out in the transaction: if the earnings distortion is reflected in the stock price, the stock price decline cannot be undone and the wealth loss of shareholders is irreversible if the company goes private subsequent to the buyout. Mispriced stock and false financial statements are still issues frequently mentioned when MBO transactions are evaluated. The UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA, 2006) ranks market abuse as one of the highest risks and suggests more intensive supervision of leveraged buyouts (LBOs). The concerns about mispriced buyouts are therefore a motive to test empirically whether earnings numbers are manipulated preceding buyout transactions.
In the past two decades, private equity buyout transactions have grown from a niche phenomenon to a ubiquitous form of corporate ownership (e.g., Strömberg, 2008). Traditionally buyouts have involved private equity funds buying companies or divisions from families or conglomerates: such transactions are known as primary buyouts (PBOs). A major trend accompanying the growth of private equity has been the rise of secondary buyouts (SBOs): transactions in which a private equity fund buys a company from another private equity fund. In our paper, The Performance of Secondary Buyouts, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we compare buyer returns in SBOs and PBOs.
In Osram Sylvania Inc. v. Townsend Ventures, LLC, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Parsons) declined to dismiss claims by Osram Sylvania Inc. that, in connection with OSI’s purchase of stock of Encelium Holdings, Inc. from the company’s other stockholders (the “Sellers”), Encelium’s failure to meet sales forecasts and manipulation of financial results by the Sellers amounted to a material adverse effect (“MAE”). The decision was issued in the context of post-closing indemnity claims asserted by OSI against the Sellers and not a disputed closing condition.
OSI, a stockholder of Encelium, agreed to purchase the remaining capital stock of Encelium not held by OSI pursuant to a stock purchase agreement executed on the last day of the third quarter of 2011. The $47 million purchase price was agreed based on Encelium’s forecasted sales of $4 million for the third quarter of 2011, as well as Sellers’ representations concerning Encelium’s financial condition, operating results, income, revenue and expenses. Following the closing of the transaction in October 2011, OSI learned that Encelium’s third quarter results were approximately half of its forecast and alleged that Encelium and the Sellers knew about these sales results, but failed to disclose them at closing in violation of a provision in the agreement requiring them to disclose facts that amount to an MAE. OSI also alleged other misconduct by Encelium and the Sellers, including, among other things, that they had manipulated Encelium’s second quarter results to make its business appear more profitable.
In considering the Sellers’ motion to dismiss OSI’s contract and tort-based claims, the court held that:
In the paper, Takeover Defenses as Drivers of Innovation and Value-Creation, forthcoming in the Strategic Management Journal, I analyze the role of anti-takeover provisions in ameliorating agency conflicts of managerial risk aversion in certain types of companies.
The desirability of anti-takeover provisions (ATPs) is a contentious issue. ATPs can lead to shareholder wealth-destruction by insulating managers from disciplinary takeovers and enabling them to engage in empire building. However, without ATPs, managers of hard-to-value (HTV) firms, which might trade at a discount due to valuation-difficulties, are exposed to ‘opportunistic takeovers’ (which aim to take advantage of low stock prices), potentially causing managerial myopia and under-investment in innovative projects. Thus, in HTV firms, ATPs might serve as credible commitments to encourage managers to make value-creating investments, but in easier-to-value firms, they might lead to inefficient governance.
Schulte Roth & Zabel regularly conducts studies on private equity buyer acquisitions of U.S. public companies with enterprise values in the $100 million to $500 million range (“middle market” deals) and greater than $500 million (“large market” deals) to monitor market practice and deal trends reflected by these transactions. During the period from January 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012, there were a total of 40 middle market deals and 50 large market deals that met these parameters.
In late 2011, I had the privilege of chairing a panel presentation in New York City on negotiating acquisitions of public companies in transactions structured as friendly tender offers. In September 2012, I chaired a follow-up panel presentation on the same topic. Both presentations took place at the annual Institute on Corporate, Securities, and Related Aspects of Mergers & Acquisitions, sponsored jointly by the Penn State Center for the Study of Mergers and Acquisitions and the New York City Bar Association. Several of the other panelists – including Gar Bason of Davis Polk, Joel Greenberg of Kaye Scholer, and Fred Green of Weil – are widely considered among the top M&A practitioners in the nation. For much of our presentations, we utilized the format of an interactive, “mock” negotiation of key issues, with various panelists playing the roles of outside counsel for the buyer, outside counsel for the target company, and special Delaware counsel.
The other panelists and I edited the transcripts of both presentations and added comprehensive footnotes. Our goal was to create a teaching tool that would be useful to students, practitioners, and others seeking to learn about the negotiating dynamics in friendly acquisitions structured as tender offers.
Both edited transcripts have been published in the Penn State Law Review. The edited transcript of the 2011 presentation is part of the Symposium Issue of the Penn State Law Review titled “The Deal Lawyers’ Guide to Public and Private Company Acquisitions.” The edited transcripts can be accessed here (Climan et al., Negotiating Acquisitions of Public Companies in Transactions Structured as Friendly Tender Offers, 116 Penn St. L. Rev. 615 (2012)) and here (Climan et al., Negotiating Acquisitions of Public Companies—A Follow-Up, 117 Penn St. L. Rev. 647 (2013)).
What motivates minority acquisitions? We study the trade-off between minority acquisitions, involving less than 50% of the target, and majority acquisitions in the forthcoming Review of Financial Studies paper, “What Motivates Minority Acquisitions? The Trade-Offs between a Partial Equity Stake and Complete Integration.” Minority acquisitions have been shown to facilitate cooperation between two independent firms. For example, Allen and Phillips (2000) and Fee, Hadlock, and Thomas (2006) show that a minority acquisition can align the incentives of the acquirer with those of the target. However, similar benefits can also be achieved with a majority acquisition, suggesting that minority stakes are also motivated as a means to avoid certain costs associated with majority control.
Using a sample of 2,166 deals, we identify several key predictors in the choice between a minority or majority acquisition. The key insight provided in this paper is the importance of costs associated with the dilution to target managerial incentives following a majority acquisition in selecting the mode of acquisition. Evidence that firms are willing to forgo benefits to control to preserve target incentives speaks to the value of these incentives.