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 ‘Bidders’
In our paper, Merger Negotiations with Stock Market Feedback, forthcoming in the Journal of Finance, we investigate whether pre-bid target stock price runups increase bidder takeover costs—an issue of first-order importance for the efficiency of the takeover mechanism. We base our predictions on a simple model with rational market participants and synergistic takeovers. Takeover signals (rumors) received by the market cause market anticipation of deal synergies that drive stock price runups. The model delivers the equilibrium pricing relation between the runup and the subsequent offer price markup (the surprise effect of the bid announcement) that should exist in a sample of observed bids.
In our paper, Are Stock-Financed Takeovers Opportunistic?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we present significant new empirical evidence relevant to the ongoing controversy over whether bidder shares in stock-financed mergers are overpriced. The extant literature is split on this issue, with some studies suggesting that investor misvaluation plays an important role in driving stock-financed mergers—especially during periods of high market valuations and merger waves. Others maintain the neoclassical view of merger activity where takeover synergies emanate from industry-specific productivity shocks. This debate is important because opportunities for selling overpriced bidder shares may result in the most overvalued rather than the most efficient bidder winning the target—distorting corporate resource allocation through the takeover market.
In November 2013 I delivered the 29th Annual Francis G. Pileggi Distinguished Lecture in Law in Wilmington, Delaware. My lecture, entitled “Delaware’s Choice,” presented four uncontested facts from my prior research: (1) in the 1980s, federal courts established the principle that Section 203 must give bidders a “meaningful opportunity for success” in order to withstand scrutiny under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; (2) federal courts upheld Section 203 at the time, based on empirical evidence from 1985-1988 purporting to show that Section 203 did in fact give bidders a meaningful opportunity for success; (3) between 1990 and 2010, not a single bidder was able to achieve the 85% threshold required by Section 203, thereby calling into question whether Section 203 has in fact given bidders a meaningful opportunity for success; and (4) perhaps most damning, the original evidence that the courts relied upon to conclude that Section 203 gave bidders a meaningful opportunity for success was seriously flawed—so flawed, in fact, that even this original evidence supports the opposite conclusion: that Section 203 did not give bidders a meaningful opportunity for success.
In the paper, No Free Shop: Why Target Companies in MBOs and Private Equity Transactions Sometimes Choose Not to Buy ‘Go-Shop’ Options, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, my co-authors (Adonis Antoniades and Donna Hitscherich) and I study the decisions by targets in private equity and MBO transactions whether to actively “shop” executed merger agreements prior to shareholder approval.
We construct a theoretical framework for explaining the choice of go-shop clauses by acquisition targets, which takes account of value-maximizing motivations, as well as agency problems related to conflicts of interest of management, investment bankers, and lawyers. On the basis of that framework, we empirically investigate the determinants of the go-shop decision, and the effects of the go-shop choice on acquisition premia and on target firm value, using a regression methodology that explicitly allows for the endogeneity of the go-shop decision. Our sample includes data on 306 cash acquisition deals for the period 2004-2011.
We allow many aspects of target firms to enter into their go-shop decision, including the nature of their legal counsel, their ownership structure, their size, and various other firm, and deal characteristics. We find that legal advisor characteristics, ownership structure, and the extent to which the transaction was widely marketed prior to the first accepted offer all matter for the go-shop decision.
On May 13, 2013, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware confirmed a prepackaged Chapter 11 plan of reorganization in the case of Central European Distribution Corporation (CEDC)  that incorporated an unmodified reverse Dutch auction. A reverse Dutch auction is a type of auction employed when a single buyer accepts bids from numerous sellers, and lowest-priced seller bids are accepted as winning bids.
The CEDC plan is perhaps the first instance of a Dutch auction process being incorporated successfully into a Chapter 11 reorganization plan. This precedent provides guidance for the use of Dutch auctions that may offer creditors distribution alternatives and maximize the utility of limited cash (or other limited property) available for distribution under a plan.
The Delaware Court of Chancery recently addressed on two separate occasions—in In re Plains Exploration & Production Co. Stockholder Litigation  and Koehler v. NetSpend Holdings, Inc. —whether a board of directors satisfied its Revlon duties in connection with a sale-of-control transaction involving negotiations with a single bidder. In both cases, the court found that the board’s initial decision to pursue a single-bidder process was reasonable. However, while the court in Plains found that the directors satisfied their fiduciary duties under the Revlon standard, the court in NetSpend, found that the directors would likely fail to meet their burden, under Revlon, of proving that they were fully informed and acted reasonably throughout the sale process. Specifically, in NetSpend, the court found that deficiencies in the fairness opinion and the combination of deal protection devices—which included a no-shop provision, a short preclosing period and a “don’t ask, don’t waive” provision that crystallized existing standstill agreements with parties that had previously expressed an interest in the company—did not pass muster under Revlon. These cases provide important lessons for companies considering whether to pursue, and how to conduct, a single-bidder sale-of-control transaction.
In Koehler v. NetSpend Holdings Inc., the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the directors of NetSpend likely breached their Revlon duty to obtain the highest price reasonably available for stockholders by pursuing a single-bidder strategy for selling the company. The board’s lack of knowledge as to the company’s value and related failure to contact potentially interested parties set it apart from other single bidder cases such as Plains Exploration, a recent case where the court found a single-bidder sale process to be reasonable. Nevertheless, the Court declined to enjoin the merger because an injunction could risk the stockholders’ opportunity to receive a substantial premium over the market price for their shares.
In In re Plains Exploration & Production Co. S’holder Litig., the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the plaintiffs’ request to enjoin a merger between Plains Exploration & Production Company and Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold even though the Plains board of directors (1) did not shop Plains before agreeing to be acquired by Freeport for a combination of cash and stock, (2) did not obtain price protection on the stock component of the merger consideration and (3) allowed its CEO (who Freeport had decided to retain after closing) to lead negotiations with Freeport. The Court also held that the estimates of future free cash flows prepared by Plains’ financial advisor did not need to be disclosed in Plains’ proxy materials because management’s estimates of cash flows were already disclosed.
In early 2012, the CEOs of Freeport and Plains discussed an acquisition of Plains by Freeport. The Plains board did not shop the company to other potential buyers or form a special committee, instead allowing the CEO to lead negotiations with Freeport even after becoming aware of the fact that Freeport had determined to retain the Plains CEO after the merger. The Court noted that the Plains CEO was “motivated to obtain the best deal possible” given that a higher merger price would have resulted in a larger payout to him as a substantial stockholder (although ultimately he agreed to roll his stock into the post-merger company).
No less than two years ago, had one tried to initiate a conversation with a Private Equity Sponsor or an M&A lawyer regarding M&A “reps and warranties” insurance (i.e., insurance designed to expressly provide insurance coverage for the breach of a representation or a warranty contained in a Purchase and Sale Agreement, in addition to or as a replacement for a contractual indemnity), one might have gotten a shrug of the shoulders or a polite response to the effect of “let’s try to negotiate around the problem instead.” Perhaps because it was misunderstood or perhaps because it had not yet hit its stride in terms of breadth of coverage, reps and warranties insurance was hardly ever used to close deals. Like Harry Potter, it was the poor stepchild often left in the closet.
Today that is no longer the case. One global insurance broker with whom we work notes that over $4 billion in reps and warranties insurance worldwide was bound last year, of which $1.4 billion thereof was bound in the US and $2.1 billion thereof was bound in the EU. Such broker’s US-based reps and warranties writings nearly doubled from 2011 and 2012. Reps and warranties insurance has become an important tool to close deals that might not otherwise get done. This post is meant to highlight how reps and warranties insurance may be of use to you in winning bids and finding means of closing deals in today’s challenging environment.