Shareholder activism is the corporate topic du jour, be it in boardrooms, the media or Washington, D.C. While corporate boards and management need to understand the current environment and how we got here, their top priority is to develop comprehensive strategies for navigating the activism landscape. As activists have become more sophisticated, and activism more mainstream, approaches to dealing with activists are, by necessity, evolving.
Posts Tagged ‘Target firms’
Increasingly, some activist hedge funds are looking to sell their stock positions back to target companies. How should the board respond to hushmail?
The Rise and Fall of Greenmail
During the heyday of takeovers in the 1980s, so-called corporate raiders would often amass a sizable stock position in a target company, and then threaten or commence a hostile offer for the company. In some cases, the bidder would then approach the target and offer to drop the hostile bid if the target bought back its stock at a significant premium to current market prices. Since target companies had fewer available takeover defenses at that time to fend off opportunistic hostile offers and other abusive takeover transactions, the company might agree to repurchase the shares in order to entice the bidder to withdraw. This practice was referred to as “greenmail,” and some corporate raiders found greenmail easier, and more profitable, than the hostile takeover itself.
Over the past few years there has been a noticeable increase in the frequency of activist investors building up considerable stakes in German listed companies in the context of public takeovers. One reason for this development is what appears to be a new business model of hedge funds—the realization of profits through litigation after the completion of a takeover. To this end, the funds take advantage of minority shareholder rights granted under German stock corporation law in connection with certain corporate measures which are likely to be implemented for business integration purposes following a successful takeover.
Activist hedge funds continue to find ways to use public M&A transactions as a tool to generate returns for their investors. As a result, market participants need to consider potential activist strategies in determining how to structure, announce and execute their deals.
Activists have used three principal strategies to extract additional value from public M&A transactions. The first strategy involves directly challenging the announced deal in an effort to extract a higher price, defeat the merger and/or pursue an alternative transaction or stand-alone strategy. The second strategy involves attempting to use statutory appraisal rights to create value for the activist. And the third strategy involves making an unsolicited offer to acquire a target, either independently or in conjunction with a strategic acquirer, to put the target in play. In this article, we discuss examples of recent uses of these strategies by activist investors and point out some general implications of these examples for transaction planners.
The bid by Valeant and Pershing Square to acquire Allergan has made a very big splash in the M&A and corporate governance world. In brief, Pershing and Valeant have teamed up in a campaign to pressure Allergan to sell to Valeant in an unsolicited cash and stock deal. What distinguishes the Valeant/Pershing deal from a conventional public bear hug (such as Pfizer’s recent effort to acquire AstraZeneca) is that, by pre-arrangement, Pershing Square acquired a 9.7% equity stake in Allergan immediately prior to the first public announcement of Valeant’s bear hug. This unusual deal structure is a first and, if successful, may pioneer a new paradigm for unsolicited takeovers of public companies.
Activist hedge funds merit the attention of corporate directors, as the value of the assets under management increases and activist funds’ targets expand well beyond small capitalization companies. This post reviews the tactics used by two prominent activist hedge fund managers to create change in 13 companies in their portfolio and highlights four perceived governance failures at target companies that attracted activist funds’ attention. This post also includes a review of characteristics of activist hedge funds, the incentives their managers have to generate positive returns, and current research investigating whether and how hedge fund activism affects target companies.
On April 2, 2014, Osisko Mining Corporation announced a superior alternative to Goldcorp Inc.’s unsolicited offer for Osisko in the form of a partnership with Yamana Gold Inc. resulting in Osisko’s shareholders receiving cash and share consideration with an implied value representing a 22% premium to Goldcorp’s offer. This transaction was announced 79 days after Goldcorp announced its intention to launch its unsolicited offer.
In the paper, Corporate Takeovers and Economic Efficiency, written for the Annual Review of Financial Economics, I review recent takeover research which advances our understanding of the role of M&A in the drive for productive efficiency. Much of this research places takeovers in the context of industrial organization, tracing with unprecedented level of detail “who buys who” up and down the supply chain and within industrial networks. I also review recent research testing the rationality of the bidding process, including whether the sales mechanism promotes a transfer of control of the target resources to the most efficient buyer. This literature draws on auction theory to describe optimal bidding strategies and it uses sophisticated econometric techniques to generate counterfactuals, exogenous variation, and causality. The review is necessarily selective, with an emphasis on the most recent contributions: half of the referenced articles were drafted or published within the past five years.
“You like to-may-to and I like to-mah-to…
Potato, potahto, tomayto, tomahto
Let’s call the whole thing off”
(“Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” by George & Ira Gershwin, 1937)
Two nations divided by a common tongue. In M&A, as in so many spheres, common language and terminology often give rise to the assumption that the architecture is similarly homogenous. Although the US and the UK have a number of similarities in terms of capital markets and business practices, there are fundamental divergences in approach to public takeover practice and regulation.
Consistent with the title of this post, I have used the great American songbook as an entry point to this guide to the ten principal differences between takeover practice and regulation in the US and the UK.
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.”