Advisory Board

  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Peter Clarke
  • Barry Diller
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp
  • Fu Chengyu
  • China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group)
  • Richard J. Gnodde
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V.
  • Jiang Jianqing
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd. (ICBC)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Richard Li
  • PCCW Limited
  • Pacific Century Group
  • Liew Mun Leong
  • CapitaLand Limited
  • Martin Lipton
  • New York University
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Liu Mingkang
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Dinesh C. Paliwal
  • Harman International Industries
  • Leon Pasternak
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Tim Payne
  • Brunswick Group
  • Joseph R. Perella
  • Perella Weinberg Partners
  • Baron David de Rothschild
  • N M Rothschild & Sons Limited
  • Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara
  • Temasek Holdings
  • Shao Ning
  • State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of China (SASAC)
  • John W. Snow
  • Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Treasury
  • Bharat Vasani
  • Tata Group
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Wang Kejin
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Wei Jiafu
  • China Ocean Shipping Group Company (COSCO)
  • Yang Chao
  • China Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
  • Zhu Min
  • International Monetary Fund

Legal Roundtable

  • Dimitry Afanasiev
  • Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev and Partners (Moscow)
  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Johan Aalto
  • Hannes Snellman Attorneys Ltd (Finland)
  • Nigel P. G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May (London)
  • Willem J.L. Calkoen
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Rotterdam)
  • Peter Callens
  • Loyens & Loeff (Brussels)
  • Bertrand Cardi
  • Darrois Villey Maillot & Brochier (Paris)
  • Santiago Carregal
  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal (Buenos Aires)
  • Martín Carrizosa
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Bogotá)
  • Carlos G. Cordero G.
  • Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Panama)
  • Ewen Crouch
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Rachel Eng
  • WongPartnership (Singapore)
  • Sergio Erede
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Kenichi Fujinawa
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Manuel Galicia Romero
  • Galicia Abogados (Mexico City)
  • Danny Gilbert
  • Gilbert + Tobin (Sydney)
  • Vladimíra Glatzová
  • Glatzová & Co. (Prague)
  • Juan Miguel Goenechea
  • Uría Menéndez (Madrid)
  • Andrey A. Goltsblat
  • Goltsblat BLP (Moscow)
  • Juan Francisco Gutiérrez I.
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Santiago)
  • Fang He
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Christian Herbst
  • Schönherr (Vienna)
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • Royal Ahold (Amsterdam)
  • Hein Hooghoudt
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Sameer Huda
  • Hadef & Partners (Dubai)
  • Masakazu Iwakura
  • Nishimura & Asahi (Tokyo)
  • Christof Jäckle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Frankfurt)
  • Michael Mervyn Katz
  • Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (Johannesburg)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Martin Lipton
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Alain Maillot
  • Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier (Paris)
  • Antônio Corrêa Meyer
  • Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice (São Paulo)
  • Sergio Michelsen Jaramillo
  • Brigard & Urrutia (Bogotá)
  • Zia Mody
  • AZB & Partners (Mumbai)
  • Christopher Murray
  • Osler (Toronto)
  • Francisco Antunes Maciel Müssnich
  • Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão (Rio de Janeiro)
  • I. Berl Nadler
  • Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP (Toronto)
  • Umberto Nicodano
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Brian O'Gorman
  • Arthur Cox (Dublin)
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Sang-Yeol Park
  • Park & Partners (Seoul)
  • José Antonio Payet Puccio
  • Payet Rey Cauvi (Lima)
  • Kees Peijster
  • COFRA Holding AG (Zug)
  • Juan Martín Perrotto
  • Uría & Menéndez (Madrid/Beijing)
  • Philip Podzebenko
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Geert Potjewijd
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek (Amsterdam/Beijing)
  • Qi Adam Li
  • Jun He Law Offices (Shanghai)
  • Biörn Riese
  • Mannheimer Swartling (Stockholm)
  • Mark Rigotti
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Rafael Robles Miaja
  • Robles Miaja (Mexico City)
  • Alberto Saravalle
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Maximilian Schiessl
  • Hengeler Mueller (Düsseldorf)
  • Cyril S. Shroff
  • Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai)
  • Shardul S. Shroff
  • Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.(New Delhi)
  • Klaus Søgaard
  • Gorrissen Federspiel (Denmark)
  • Ezekiel Solomon
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Emanuel P. Strehle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Munich)
  • David E. Tadmor
  • Tadmor & Co. (Tel Aviv)
  • Kevin J. Thomson
  • Barrick Gold Corporation (Toronto)
  • Yu Wakae
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Tomasz Wardynski
  • Wardynski & Partners (Warsaw)
  • Rolf Watter
  • Bär & Karrer AG (Zürich)
  • Xiao Wei
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Xu Ping
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Shuji Yanase
  • OK Corporation (Tokyo)
  • Alvin Yeo
  • WongPartnership LLP (Singapore)

Founding Directors

  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Nigel P.G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May
  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Peter Williamson
  • Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Franny Yao
  • Ernst & Young

Monthly Archives: April 2014

CANADIAN UPDATE: Negotiating Share and Asset Purchase Agreements: Fundamental Considerations

Editors’ Note: This presentation was submitted by I. Berl Nadler, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and a leading Canadian corporate lawyer who has been involved in numerous high-profile financing transactions and acquisitions worldwide on behalf of multinational corporate clients. The presenters are Mr. Nadler and Paul Lamarre, partner at Davies Ward Phllips & Vineberg LLP.

 Executive Summary:  In the presentation below, the authors review key legal (including corporate, commercial, tax and regulatory) and business issues that arise when negotiating and drafting acquisition agreements in Canada which, except for the Canadian regulatory issues, have universal application. The presentation focuses primarily on negotiated acquisition agreements of assets or shares of private companies and does not address securities regulatory issues governing the acquisition of public companies, except as they apply to the issuance or transfer of securities of public companies in the context of a such  acquisitions.  Many of the legal, regulatory and business issues that arise in negotiated acquisitions of the assets or shares of private corporations – whether stand-alone private entities or subsidiaries of publicly held-corporations – are of equal relevance in the negotiation and drafting of acquisition agreements for the shares of publicly traded entities.

Negotiating Share and Asset Purchase Agreements: Fundamental Considerations

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

U.S. UPDATE: Corporate Governance Update: Shareholder Activism in the M&A Context

Editor’s Note: David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions.  The attached article by Mr. Katz and Laura A. McIntosh was first published in the New York Law Journal on March 27, 2014; the full article, including footnotes, is available here.

Highlights:

  • In 2013, activism in the M&A context grew in scope and ambition. Activists were often successful in obtaining board seats and forcing increases in deal consideration.
  • One source estimates that the percentage of activist attacks that were successful in either raising deal price or terminating a deal was a stunning 71 percent through November of 2013, an overwhelming increase from 25 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2011.
  • While the traditional areas of board representation and deal price no doubt will remain the highest value targets in M&A activism, appraisal rights litigation and arbitrage became a more common tactic pursued by activists in 2013.
  • One formidable barrier to these suits’ ever becoming prohibitive in M&A deals is that, in order for dissenters to have rights at all, a merger must first be consummated, however, there is a possibility that Delaware courts might entertain a cause of action known as “quasi-appraisal rights.”
  • Notably, revisions to Delaware law in 2013 may have an impact on appraisal claims.  The new law eliminates the need for top-up provisions in two-step merger agreements; these provisions enabled an acquirer to purchase newly issued shares from the target, if necessary, in order to reach the 90 percent threshold required to effect a short-form merger.  Under the new provision, shareholders now can be required by Delaware companies to make any demands for appraisal no later than the closing of the first-step offer.

Main Article:

With M&A activity expected to increase in 2014, shareholder activism is an important factor to be considered in the planning, negotiation, and consummation of corporate transactions.  In 2013, a year of relatively low deal activity,[1] it became clear that activism in the M&A context was growing in scope and ambition.  Last year activists were often successful in obtaining board seats and forcing increases in deal consideration, results that may fuel increased efforts going forward.  A recent survey of M&A professionals and corporate executives found that the current environment is viewed as favorable for deal-making, with executives citing an improved economy, decreased economic uncertainty, and a backlogged appetite for transactions.[2]  There is no doubt that companies pursuing deals in 2014—whether as a buyer or as a seller—will have to contend with activism on a variety of fronts, and advance preparation will be important.

While the traditional areas of board representation and deal price no doubt will remain the highest value targets in M&A activism, one newer area to watch for activity in 2014 is appraisal rights litigation and arbitrage, which became a more common tactic pursued by activists in 2013.  Shareholder activism is poised to have an even greater impact in the M&A context this year and companies should be aware of and prepared for this possibility if they pursue an M&A transaction.

2013 Trends to Continue

In 2013, the power and influence of activist hedge funds rose to new heights.  In financial terms, hedge fund assets under management ended the year at a new record:  capital invested in the global hedge fund industry was reported to be $2.63 trillion, while U.S. activist hedge funds are now estimated to hold close to $100 billion in assets under management.[3]

Activists have become increasingly ambitious in their selection of targets and inventive in their choice of tactics.  In 2014, as in 2013, large, well-known companies should anticipate being targeted by activist campaigns, and they can expect the activists to be sophisticated not only in their demands but also in their use of media, outside experts, and litigation strategy to achieve their objectives.  Moreover, so far in 2014, smaller companies have increasingly been targeted by activists, many of whom are newly formed activist funds.

In 2013, activists experienced unprecedented success in the outcomes of their campaigns in the M&A context.  One source estimates that the percentage of activist attacks that were successful in either raising deal price or terminating a deal was a stunning 71 percent through November of 2013, an overwhelming increase from 25 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2011.[4]  Moreover, activists have had significant success in adding their designees to the boards of target companies.  Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) estimates that activists won board seats in 68 percent of proxy fights in 2013 (not including cases in which board seats were gained without a fight in a settlement), versus 43 percent in 2012.[5]  At the same time, activists have garnered a degree of legitimacy that they have never before enjoyed.  Traditional investment funds now routinely work with activist hedge funds, and even many independent directors of target companies are more receptive to activist proposals than ever before.  As activist hedge funds become substantial shareholders in many companies, they become an increasingly significant factor for companies considering M&A activity in 2014.

Appraisal Rights: Background

An emerging weapon in the activist arsenal in the M&A context appears to be appraisal rights litigation, or at least the threat of such litigation.  Appraisal rights are a well-known but generally insignificant footnote to cash mergers:  in Delaware, shareholders who object to a cash offer for their shares have the right to dissent and seek a higher price through litigation.[6]  In order to perfect appraisal rights in Delaware, shareholders must either vote against or abstain from voting on the merger; they must also refuse to accept the merger consideration paid to the other shareholders at closing.  After the merger is completed, the dissenters then have the right to file suit in Delaware, asking a court to independently determine the value of their shares as of the merger closing date.  The dissenters have sixty days post-closing in which to pursue appraisal or accept the price paid in the merger.

Historically, appraisal rights litigation has not been significant; in the last two decades, only forty-five appraisal cases have carried through to the issuance of a post-trial opinion.  However, this type of action appears to be emerging as a more prominent feature of the M&A landscape.  Overall, the value of appraisal rights cases brought in Delaware has been rising:  one study found that appraisal claims were brought with respect to 15 percent of takeovers in 2013 and that the value of the claims was $1.5 billion, ten times the value of such claims in 2004.[7]  So far this year, twenty appraisal claims have been filed in Delaware, as compared to thirty-three in all of 2013.[8]

Various factors are contributing to the rise of appraisal rights activism, including legal developments and financial conditions as well as the general aggressiveness and ascendancy of hedge fund activists.  In terms of legal developments, a series of cases regarding appraisal rights have created greater opportunities for appraisal rights arbitrage and mitigated slightly the risks inherent in judicial determination of share value.  Setting the stage for action was a 2007 Delaware Chancery Court opinion that surprised observers by ruling that appraisal rights are available to holders of stock on the date of the merger vote, rather than on the much earlier record date.[9]  This ruling made it possible for investors to analyze a deal and purchase shares at the final hour with the intent of pursuing appraisal.[10]  As noted above, commencing appraisal proceedings then gives shareholders a sixty-day option on the merger consideration while they evaluate the potential upside of appraisal rights litigation.

While appraisal litigation is risky and can be costly, historically, it has been financially worthwhile for the plaintiffs.  One review of Delaware case law found that over 80 percent of appraisal rights cases resulted in a finding of fair value by the court that was higher than the merger price paid.[11]  Indeed, in many cases it was significantly higher, with one analysis finding a median premium of 82 percent over the merger price.[12]  These statistics may only reflect that appraisal proceedings in the past often have been brought in egregious circumstances, but the track record nevertheless appears to be spurring an increase in appraisal demands.  A further catalyst is that the Delaware appraisal statute entitles dissenters to interest, compounded quarterly from the merger closing date until the date that they receive the fair value of their shares, at a very favorable rate set by a recent amendment to the statute:  the Federal Reserve discount rate plus five percent.

With respect to determining fair value itself, the court has enormous leeway, and trials generally center on expert testimony.  From 2010 through 2013, Delaware courts consistently held that the price paid in the merger would not be given any presumptive weight in the determination of fair value for a dissenter’s shares.  Moreover, these courts reaffirmed a prior holding that the appraisal would be based on the value of the company as a going concern as of the merger date, not as of the offer date.[13]  Therefore, any value added between the closing of the offer period and the consummation of the merger would increase the fair value of the shares.[14]  While a court may choose its valuation methodology, some recent cases have determined fair value based on the discounted cash flow method, which is well-understood and lends itself to principled analysis from a financial risk-benefit standpoint.[15]  Discounted cash flow analyses, however, often produce values in excess of what a buyer would be willing to pay or the value of the company’s stock in the public trading markets.  In two widely-noted 2013 cases that went to trial, the court used the discounted cash flow methodology and determined that the fair value of the shares was significantly higher than the merger price.  In the merger of one Cox Enterprises, subsidiary with another, the court found, valuing the company as a going concern, that the fair value per share was $5.75, as opposed to the offer price of $4.80.[16]  Similarly, in the merger of 3M Company and Cogent, the plaintiffs—including four large hedge funds—won a 3.5 percent premium over the offer price.[17]  Though one case in November 2013 looked to the merger price for guidance rather than relying upon a discounted cash flow analysis, the court noted that in this particular case, the DCF methodology was essentially unavailable due to a lack of reliable projections.[18]

The highest-profile appraisal rights case of last year involved Carl Icahn’s campaign against the Dell going-private transaction.  In February 2013, a buyout group led by Michael Dell entered into an agreement to take the company private in a $24.4 billion transaction.  Icahn, who began acquiring Dell shares after the transaction agreement was announced, joined with Southeastern Asset Management and some other large Dell shareholders to oppose the transaction on the basis that the price was too low.  Icahn presented various alternative leveraged recapitalization plans over the course of several months, but both the Dell board and ISS recommended that shareholders accept the original buyout transaction instead.  Meanwhile, Icahn urged his fellow shareholders to exercise their appraisal rights under Delaware law, primarily as a means to encourage shareholders not to vote for the transaction.  Although the transaction received support from a majority of the total shares outstanding, and a majority of the shares not held by Michael Dell and affiliated parties that voted on the transaction, in the face of the Icahn campaign, the going-private transaction was not able to gain the much higher vote of a majority of the outstanding unaffiliated shares required by the original transaction agreement.  Ultimately, the buyout group increased their offer in exchange for a change in the voting rules so that the separate vote of the unaffiliated shares would be based on shares voting rather than shares outstanding.  In September 2013, the shareholders approved the transaction, and thereafter, Icahn withdrew his appraisal demand.  Whether or not Icahn ever actually intended to pursue appraisal rights litigation, the credible threat of doing so appeared to be one of several factors in his push for a higher buyout price, which he (and the other shareholders) ultimately received.  And although Icahn did not in the end pursue appraisal rights, a number of other former Dell shareholders did exercise appraisal rights.[19]

Appraisal Rights: Looking Ahead

Activists have shown increasing interest in the possibilities of appraisal rights lawsuits.  During the Dell buyout process, the Shareholder Forum, an activist organization, launched a registered trust designed to make dissenting more attractive.[20]  The idea was that dissenting Dell shareholders could trade their shares for trust units, which would be listed on an exchange and theoretically cashed out in the market at any time.  The trust was designed to mitigate one major reason that appraisal rights cases historically have held limited appeal, namely, the fact that dissenting shareholders have their investment tied up for months or years while the lawsuit is adjudicated.  The Shareholder Forum encourages investors to use appraisal rights claims as “practical investments,” particularly when held as marketable and managed holdings in an investment vehicle similar to the one developed for Dell shareholders.[21]  Whether such a market could indeed be generated is, at the moment, an open question.[22]

Similarly, arbitrageurs have picked up on appraisal claims as fertile new ground for activity.[23]  The managed fund market is flush with cash, and hedge funds facing stiff competition for returns are looking for unusual opportunities.[24]  Funds may view these claims as a way to take advantage of Delaware’s favorable interest rate, particularly in the current low interest rate environment.  They may estimate a high likelihood of receiving at least the merger price as fair value for their shares, and possibly much more.  If nothing else, the claims may be valuable as leverage for a lucrative settlement.  Reportedly, some hedge funds have begun to specialize in appraisal rights—one having raised over $1 billion for that purpose—while some very large funds have begun to diversify into this area.[25]

Exemplifying the arbitrageur approach to appraisal claims is the ongoing Dole takeover battle.  Dole shareholders were offered cash in a management buyout, and many shareholders were not satisfied with the offer price.  The deal was approved by a bare majority, and afterwards, about one-quarter of Dole’s shareholders exercised their appraisal rights.  The dissenters included four large hedge funds, all of which purchased shares after the buyout was announced and all of which have filed appraisal actions in other transactions.  The result is that Dole now faces a potential $190 million liability.[26]  Should the hedge funds win a large payout, whether through settlement or adjudication, they and others will no doubt be encouraged to repeat this approach in other cash merger transactions.

The utility of appraisal rights suits to activists and plaintiffs’ attorneys rests not only on the possibility of a large payout but also on the fact that no wrongdoing need be alleged or proven.  The usual class action in the wake of a merger rests on allegations that the board of directors somehow breached its fiduciary duties to the shareholders, a very difficult claim on which to prevail under the business judgment rule, even under the higher judicial standard of enhanced scrutiny.  By contrast, appraisal rights plaintiffs need only hope the court determines that the value of their shares exceeds the price paid in the merger—again, viewing the company as a going concern, and with significant interest component available.

It would appear that one formidable barrier to these suits’ ever becoming prohibitive in M&A deals is that, in order for dissenters to have rights at all, a merger must first be consummated; this obviously requires the majority or supermajority of holders to accept the deal.  However, there is a possibility that Delaware courts might entertain a cause of action known as “quasi-appraisal rights.”  These rights have been recognized when proxy materials were discovered, after the vote, to have contained material errors or omissions that might have influenced a shareholder’s decision to dissent.  All shareholders in quasi-appraisal have the right to pursue appraisal regardless of how they voted and even if they have already accepted cash for their shares, with no risk that they would have to return any merger consideration if the appraised value ends up lower than the paid price per share.  Quasi-appraisal is far from settled doctrine, but it potentially eliminates the significant downsides of both appraisal claims and traditional post-closing class action lawsuits, while threatening a target company with a potentially enormous payout owed to all shareholders.[27]  Delaware courts presumably recognize the significant risk of inviting such disruptive litigation by making this claim available beyond a limited use as equitable remedy, but it remains to be seen if this doctrine will develop further.

It is not uncommon in merger agreements for acquirers to seek to include appraisal closing conditions, designed to allocate the risk of significant dissent to the seller and its shareholders.  This type of condition states that if the percentage of dissenting shareholders is above a certain threshold—typically five to ten percent of the outstanding shares—the buyer no longer has an obligation to consummate the transaction.  It is possible that these conditions may become more popular as a signal to arbitrageurs and activists that too-vigorous dissent may undermine a transaction completely.  However, appraisal rights closing conditions can have the undesired effect of giving additional leverage to dissenters and should be considered carefully before being proposed by buyers.[28]  In addition, sellers should shy away from accepting such conditions as they effectively transfer the risk of non-consummation back to the seller and may significantly increase the risk that the transaction at issue is not ultimately consummated.

Notably, revisions to Delaware law in 2013 may have an impact on appraisal claims.  A new Section 251(h), designed to facilitate two-step mergers, now permits acquirers who comply with certain conditions to effect a squeeze-out merger without a shareholder vote if, after a tender or exchange offer, the acquirer owns the number of shares that would be needed to approve the merger agreement at a shareholder vote.[29]  The new law eliminates the need for top-up provisions in two-step merger agreements; these provisions enabled an acquirer to purchase newly issued shares from the target, if necessary, in order to reach the 90 percent threshold required to effect a short-form merger.  Under the new provision, shareholders now can be required by Delaware companies to make any demands for appraisal no later than the closing of the first-step offer.  Previously, shareholders had been legally required to wait to exercise their appraisal rights until after the consummation of the second-step merger.  Moreover, appraisal rights are available to target shareholders in all mergers effectuated under Section 251(h), including cashless exchange offers, which, if effectuated outside of the new provisions, do not give rise to appraisal rights.[30]

Preparing for M&A Activism

Hedge fund activists may well be motivated by their recent success and newly acquired mainstream credibility to pursue energetic activity in 2014, particularly if M&A deal volume as a whole increases as predicted.  In essential respects, preparing for shareholder activism in the M&A context is no different from preparing for shareholder activism generally.  Companies should, as always, prioritize clear and frequent communication, meet with significant shareholders to hear and understand their concerns, and consistently articulate the long-term, strategic vision that the board is pursuing.

It may be a useful exercise for management and the board to take a step back and look at any proposed transaction from the perspective of an aggressive activist investor, in order to understand and take steps to minimize any potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by activists.  Currently, merger parties closely scrutinize the possibility of an interloper and include provisions in the merger agreement to allocate the risk of this possibility between the buyer and the seller.  Potential target companies may want to consider structural takeover defenses in advance of beginning any extraordinary transaction process to ensure as much as possible that the target board maintains control over the transaction from start to finish.  The possibility of activist attacks should be discussed during the negotiation stage of the transaction, so that any affected deal terms can be agreed upon and incorporated into the merger agreement and other documents.  The deal partners should cooperate and work closely with their financial and legal advisors as well their communications teams to plan their response to any activist efforts to derail the transaction.  Potential targets must keep track of any significant stock purchases occurring in the run-up to a deal and consider carefully the identity and goals of such buyers.  In light of the scope and success of activist efforts in 2013, no company pursuing a significant transaction in 2014 should underestimate the potential impact of activist campaigns in the M&A context.

 

_________

[1] Mergermarket reports that deal value in 2013 was $2,215.1 billion, down 3.2 percent from $2.288.8 billion in 2012.  2013 saw the lowest deal value since 2010.  See Mergermarket M&A Trend Report: 2013 (Jan. 3, 2014) available at www.mergermarket.com/pdf/Mergermarket.2013.FinancialAdvisorM&ATrendReport.pdf.

[2] KPMG 2014 M&A Outlook Survey Report at 1, available at www.kpmg.com/IE/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/2014-m-a-outlook-survey-report.pdf.

[3] See HFR Global Hedge Fund Industry Report, Jan. 21, 2014 available at www.hedgefundresearch.com/?fuse=products-irglo.

[4] See Alan Klein, “Shareholder Activism in M&A Transactions,” Simpson Thacher & Bartlett Memorandum, Feb. 26, 2014, available at https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/corpgov/2014/02/26/shareholder-activism-in-ma-transactions.

[5] See Stephen Foley, “Activist hedge funds managers get board welcome,” Financial Times, Dec. 23, 2013, available at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/71362352-68e0-11e3-bb3e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2x0FxobX6.

[6] Del. Gen. Corp. L. § 262, available at delcode.delaware.gov/title8/c001/sc09/.  As discussed below, appraisal rights are now available to target shareholders in exchange offers if the merger is consummated under new Section 251(h) of the Delaware corporation law.  See text accompanying note 30.

[7] See Steven M. Davidoff, “New Form of Shareholder Activism Gains Momentum,” NYTimes.com Dealbook, Mar. 5, 2014 (citing an unpublished paper by Professor Minor Myers and Professor Charles Korsmo), available at dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/a-new-form-of-shareholder-activism-gains-momentum/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0.

[8] Bloomberg Law Database (search conducted Mar. 18, 2014).

[9] In re Appraisal of Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc., C.A. No. 1554-CC (Del. Ch. May 2, 2007), available at courts.delaware.gov/opinions/(wshozyqwortjg2bswbmuwzbl)/download.aspx?ID=91460.

[10] Transkaryoticat 7-8 (“Respondents raise one policy concern that deserves mentioning. They argue that this decision will ‘pervert the goals of the appraisal statute by allowing it to be used as an investment tool for arbitrageurs as opposed to a statutory safety net for objecting stockholders.’  That is, the result I reach here may, argue respondents, encourage appraisal litigation initiated by arbitrageurs who buy into appraisal suits by free-riding on Cede’s votes on behalf of other beneficial holders—a disfavored outcome.” (footnotes omitted)).

[11] See Jeremy Anderson & Jose P. Sierra, “Unlocking Intrinsic Value Through Appraisal Rights,” Law360, Sept. 10, 2013, available at www.law360.com.

[12] See Lawrence M. Rolnick & Steven M. Hecht, “Del. Weighs in on Fair Value in Appraisal Rights Cases,” Law360, Aug. 7, 2013, available at www.law360.com.

[13] See, e.g., Golden Telecom v. Global GT LP, 11 A.3d 214 (Del. 2010) (rejecting any rule that would require the Court of Chancery to defer to the merger price in an appraisal proceeding); Merion Capital LP v. 3M Cogent Inc., C.A. No. 6247 (Del. Ch. July 8, 2013) (reiterating that the going concern value of the company is the relevant inquiry), available at courts.delaware.gov/opinions/download.aspx?ID=191670.

[14] Cede & Co. v. Technicolor, Inc., 684 A.2d 289, 298 (Del. 1996) (stating that “value added to the going concern by the ‘majority acquirer,’ during the transient period of a two-step merger, accrues to the benefit of all stockholders and must be included in the appraisal process on the date of the merger”).

[15] See, e.g., The Brattle Group, “Recent Guidance from the Delaware Court of Chancery,” Summer 2013, available at www.brattle.com/system/publications/pdfs/000/004/891/original/Recent_Guidance_From_the_Delaware_Court_of_Chancery.pdf?1378903543; Edward M. McNally, “Are Appraisal Cases Coming Back?” Del. Bus. Ct. Insider, July 17, 2013, available at www.morrisjames.com/pp/article-184.pdf.

[16] Towerview LLC v. Cox Radio, Inc., C.A. No. 4809 (Del. Ch. June 28, 2013), available at www.delawarebusinesslitigation.com/uploads/file/towerview%20v%20%20cox%20radio.pdf.

[17] Merion Capital, L.P. v. 3M Cogent, Inc., supra.

[18] Huff Fund Investment Partnership v. CKx, Inc., C.A. No. 6844-VCG (Del. Ch. Nov. 1, 2013), available at courts.delaware.gov/opinions/download.aspx?ID=196960.

[19] Bloomberg Business Week, “T. Rowe to Magnetar Demand Dell Appraisal After Buyout (Correct),” Nov. 28, 2013 (“T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and more than 100 other Dell Inc. shareholders who control a combined 47.5 million shares spurned the company’s buyout offer to seek a potentially higher payout through the Delaware court system”), available at www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-28/t-dot-rowe-to-magnetar-capital-demand-dell-appraisals-after-buyout; see also M&A Law Prof Blog, “Dell Appraisal,” Nov. 29, 2013, available at lawprofessors.typepad.com/mergers/2013/11/dell-appraisal.html.

[20] See The Shareholder Forum, Dell Valuation Home Page, available at http://www.shareholderforum.com/dell/index.htm.

[21] See The Shareholder Forum, “Appraised Value Rights: A Summary for Investors,” available at http://www.shareholderforum.com/appraisal/Program/20131209_AVR-summary.pdf.

[22] See, e.g., Liz Hoffman, “Dell Buyout Critics Seek New Market for Appraisal Rights,” Law360, June 21, 2013, available at www.law360.com.

[23] See, e.g., William Savitt, “Dissenters Pose Bigger Risks to Corporate Deals,” Nat. L.J., Feb. 10, 2014, available at www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202642062604/Dissenters-Pose-Bigger-Risks-to-Corporate-Deals?slreturn=20140225205634.

[24] See, e.g., “Activists and Regulators:  A Word from Rodgin Cohen,” 14 M&A J. 7 (Feb. 2014).

[25] See, e.g., Liz Hoffman, “Dole Food Deal Passes by Slim Margin as Hedge Funds Seek Appraisal,” WSJ.com, Oct. 31, 2013, available at blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/10/31/dole-food-deal-passes-by-slim-margin-as-hedge-funds-seek-appraisal/.

[26] See Davidoff, supra.

[27] For a full discussion of quasi-appraisal case law in Delaware, see Robert B. Schumer et al., “Quasi-Appraisal:  The Unexplored Frontier of Stockholder Litigation?” 12 M&A J. 2 (Jan. 2012).

[28] For a thorough discussion of appraisal closing conditions, see “Appraisal Arbitrage:  Will It Become a New Hedge Fund Strategy?” Latham & Watkins M&A Deal Commentary, May 2007, available at www.lw.com/upload/pubContent/_pdf/pub1883_1.pdf .

[29] Del. Gen. Corp. L. § 251(h). Section 251(h) mergers are not available to “interested stockholders” (holding 15 percent or more of the target shares).

[30] Del. Gen. Corp. L. § 262.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

ISRAELI UPDATE – Public Offering of Foreign Mutual Funds in Israel

Editor’s Note:  David E. Tadmor is a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable and the Managing Partner of Tadmor & Co.  Mr. Tadmor is recognized as a leading expert in the area of Israeli competition law.  He served as the Director General of the Israel Antitrust Authority (IAA) from 1997 to 2001.  This memo is written by Amir Scharf, head of Tadmor & Co.’s Capital Markets & Securities Law Department, and associate Oren Ofek.

Executive Summary: In recent months, there has been a renewed legislative effort to enable the offering of units (“Units”) of foreign mutual funds (including exchange traded funds, or ETFs) (each, a “Fund”) in Israel. The proposed legislation will allow foreign Fund managers who meet certain criteria to publicly offer Units in Israel.

Main Article:

Currently, the distribution and offering of Units requires the filing of a prospectus in Israel and compliance with other legal requirements, including ongoing reporting and disclosure obligations. In addition, Israeli law prohibits Israeli banks, the primary distribution channel of Funds, from receiving fees for distributing Units from foreign Fund managers.

The proposed legislation, if adopted, will enable foreign Fund managers, following receipt of approval from the Israeli Securities Authority (the “ISA”) (after filing a fairly simple application), to publicly offer Units to retail clients in Israel, relying on reports issued by such foreign Fund managers in their country of origin. As proposed, there would not be a need to file a prospectus in Israel or to comply with significant ongoing reporting or disclosure obligations. The Units may be publicly offered through local or foreign investment advisors, through the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, or both.

In order to be granted approval by the ISA to publicly offer the Units in Israel, the criteria that must be met include:

  1. The foreign Fund manager must manage no less than five Funds, the units of which have been publicly offered for at least five years, with each Fund having assets with a total value of at least US$500 million during the preceding two years.
  2. The total value of the Funds’ assets and client portfolios managed by the Fund manager, any person controlling the foreign Fund manager, and any entity controlled by such person, must be at least US$20 billion.
  3. The value of the foreign Fund’s net assets must be at least US$50 million, and its units are available for purchase in Europe or the United States.
  4. The foreign Fund must operate under the U.S. Investment Company Act or the European directive UCITS.
  5. The price of the Units must be regularly published on a website and be available to the public without cost.
  6. If the Fund is publicly traded in Israel, then the Units must also be listed for trade on a foreign stock exchange
  7. The foreign Fund cannot specialize in investments in Israel.
  8. The foreign Fund manager must deposit a bank guaranty issued by an Israeli bank of at least ILS 1 million (~US$285,000) for the benefit of the ISA, or place a senior lien and floating charge, in favor of the ISA, on a deposit in such amount placed in an Israeli bank.
  9. The foreign Fund manager must deposit ILS 3 million (~US$860,000) in an Israeli bank account.
  10. The foreign Fund manager must appoint a representative in Israel to serve as liaison between such manager and the ISA and between such manager and the Unit holders in Israel.

Based on recent data, the total value of the mutual fund market in Israel is, as of January 2014, over US$66 billion. Only 4% of such amount is invested in funds that specialize in securities traded outside of Israel. The entry of foreign funds into the Israeli market is expected to substantially increase the total value of mutual funds held by the Israeli public, particularly with respect to funds that invest in securities traded outside of Israel.

The legislation process described above seems to be in its final stages, and we expect that it could conclude by as early as the end of June 2014.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

Canadian Update: Shareholder Value Enhanced Through Sufficient Time to Generate Alternative Transaction

Editors’ Note: This article was submitted by I. Berl Nadler, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and a leading Canadian corporate lawyer who has been involved in numerous high-profile financing transactions and acquisitions worldwide on behalf of multinational corporate clients. This update is provided by Davies Ward partners Kevin Thomson, Peter Hong and Neil Kravitz.

Main Article:

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.

Osisko was able to afford itself time to complete its auction process and enter into a superior transaction by commencing a proceeding against Goldcorp alleging misuse of confidential information. This litigation was settled with Goldcorp agreeing not to take up shares until April 15, 2014 (92 days after the announcement of the offer) and with Osisko agreeing to waive its shareholder rights plan on the earlier of April 15, 2014 and the date Osisko entered into any third-party transaction.

In March 2013, the Canadian Securities Administrators proposed National Instrument 62-105, setting out a new regime for the regulation of shareholder rights plans in Canada. The proposed rule would shift decision making regarding rights plans from securities regulators to shareholders, to allow a rights plan adopted by a target board to stay in place, provided shareholder approval is obtained within specified periods. The principal implication of the proposed rule is that a target company will be able to forestall an unsolicited bid for 90 days or longer, if shareholder approval is obtained, which increases the amount of time available to seek out alternatives. Our summary and discussion of the proposed rule can be found here.

Proposed National Instrument 62-105 is reflective of a regulatory mindset that a significantly longer period than the statutory minimum 35-day bid period, or the 45- to 60-day period that has commonly resulted from hearings to cease trade rights plans, should be provided to the target board in order to allow it to run a process with the greatest prospect of maximizing value for the benefit of shareholders.

In the case of Osisko, it was able to afford itself sufficient time through tactical litigation, and the time paid off in a deal that appears to provide superior value to the initial Goldcorp offer. It remains to be seen whether Goldcorp will top the Yamana transaction.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

CHINESE UPDATE – Update on Cross-Border RMB Investment – MOFCOM Further Opens Up RMB Inbound Investment

Editors’ Note: Contributed by Ms. Fang He, a partner at Jun He and a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable. Ms. He has broad experience in international M&A. Authored by Ms. Wei Chen of Jun He. Ms. Chen specializes in cross-border M&A, foreign direct investment, outbound investment, private equity investment and national security review. Ms. Chen has expanded experience in other fields such as the securities market, offshore IPO listings and follow-up offerings. This article was first posted on hk.lexiscnweb.com.

Highlights:

  1. The RMB-dominated cross-border investment had always been a significant channel to promote the internationalization of RMB.
  2. Foreign investors have always been seeking more convenient channels to “spend” their RMB proceeds derived from their investment in China, international trade or other sources in onshore or offshore markets.
  3. China’s authorities have made significant developments in 2011 and 2012 to expand the scope and variety of cross-border transactions utilizing the RMB.
  4. MOFCOM released a new circular to further relax its supervision over the RMB-denominated inbound investment and the new circular became effective on January 1, 2014.

MAIN ARTICLE

When the Chinese government started to step up the internationalization of RMB (the Chinese currency), the RMB-dominated cross-border investment had always been a significant channel to build up.  China’s authorities have made significant developments in 2011 and 2012 to expand the scope and variety of cross-border transactions utilizing the RMB.

For inbound investment, the government gave the green light to RMB-denominated investments by foreign investors in 2011, when the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) issued several circulars permitting the RMB-denominated foreign investments and also imposing certain supervision rules in this regard.

Earlier December 2013, MOFCOM released another circular to further relax its supervision power over the RMB-denominated inbound investment.  The new circular, the Circular concerning Relevant Issues with regard to Cross-border RMB Direct Investment (“Circular No.87”) became effective on January 1, 2014.  The new circular supersedes the two previous regulations[1] issued by MOFCOM governing this area.

I.     Highlights of Circular No.87

Circular No.87 is in a rather short form by having seven articles only, with the following highlights.

1.   Foreign Investor; Source of Offshore RMB and Investment Channel

  • Foreign Investor has been defined to include investors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;
  • Source of Offshore RMB: any RMB legally gained offshore;
  • Investment Channel: establishment of new enterprises; subscription in existing enterprises; acquisition of domestic enterprises and other foreign direct investment activities.

2.   Approval Authority and Procedures

  • The currently effective laws and regulations governing the foreign investment are applicable to transactions dominated by either foreign currency or RMB, and therefore, RMB-dominated foreign investments should go through the approval procedures same as those for the foreign currency dominated transactions.

3.   Restriction

  • The offshore RMB cannot be invested, either directly or indirectly, in negotiable securities or financial derivatives (except for the strategic investment in public companies);
  • The offshore RMB cannot be used for offering entrusted loans.

4.   Special Items marked on the MOFCOM Approval

  • MOFCOM and its local agencies should specify the following in their approvals, (i) “invested by offshore RMB”, (ii) the amount of the RMB investment, and (iii) investment restrictions.

5.   Change of Currency used for Inbound Investment

  • If the foreign investor intends to change the dominated currency in its investment from foreign currency to RMB, MOFCOM approval on the change of the joint venture contract and the articles of association will be no longer required.  Instead, the foreign investor may directly go through the procedures of company registration, opening of a bank account and others with the relevant authorities, following its MOFCOM approval on the foreign currency dominated transaction.

6.   Re-investment by using RMB derived from Onshore

  • Where the foreign investor uses its onshore RMB which may be derived from the dividend distribution, sale of equity interest/shares, reduction of capital contribution, liquidation or early exit from investment, the relevant existing regulations should still be followed.

II.     Further Opening-Up by Circular No.87
Circular No. 87 further opens up the RMB inbound investment from the following aspects.

1.   Removal of Restrictions on Investment Scale and Sectors
Under the previous regulatory regime, if the inbound RMB investment falls within the following circumstances, the investment should be finally approved by MOFCOM at the central level:

  1. The amount of RMB used for an investment reaches RMB 300 million;
  2. Investment in sectors such as financing guarantee, financing lease, micro-loan and auction;
  3. Investment in foreign invested holding companies, foreign invested venture capital companies or foreign invested equity investment enterprises; or
  4. Investment in sectors that are subject to macro-economic control of the State such as cement, steel and iron, electrolytic aluminum and ship building.

Circular No.87 has removed the aforesaid restrictions on the scale and sectors, which is the most notable opening-up by this Circular.

2.   Expansion of Offshore RMB Sources

The previous regulations have listed three legitimate sources of the offshore RMB, i.e., (i) RMB proceeds derived from cross-border trading activities; (ii) RMB proceeds derived onshore from the dividend distribution, sale of equity interest/shares, reduction of capital contribution, liquidation or early exit from investment, and legitimately remitted out of China; and (iii) RMB funds gained offshore through legitimate channels including issuance of RMB share or RMB bond.

Circular No.87 does not exemplify or restrict the sources of the “legally gained offshore RMB”.  Upon Circular No. 87, any legally gained offshore RMB may be used for inbound investment, regardless of whether obtained through cross-border trade, investment proceeds from China, currency exchange, issuance of RMB share or bond, or any other means.
3.   Cancellation of Approval on Change of Currency used for Inbound Investment
Under the previous regulatory system, if a foreign investor intends to change the dominated currency for its inbound investment from foreign currency to RMB, the foreign investor should obtain the approval from MOFCOM or its local agency.

The said approval has been removed by the Circular No.87.  In this sense, the foreign investor is able to directly go through the procedures of company registration, opening of a bank account and others with the relevant authorities, with no need to obtain a prior MOFCOM approval on change of dominated currency.

III.     Comments
Circular No.87 expands the sources of offshore RMB and simplifies the investment procedures by abolishing the special approval requirement on large-scale investment or investment in special sectors.  With more opening-up measures taken by the government, it is expected that the RMB-dominated inbound investment process will become more predictable and convenient for the investor.

Lastly, it is worth noting that Circular No.87 still restricts RMB inbound investments in negotiable securities and financial derivatives, in order to channel RMB investment into substantive economic activities.

_______________________

[1]Circular of the MOFCOM regarding the Relevant Issues in relation to Cross-border RMB Direct Investment (Shang Zi Han [2011] No.889) and Circular of MOFCOM concerning Relevant Issues in relation to MOFCOM System regarding Administration on Cross-border RMB Direct Investment (Shang Ban Zi Han [2011] No.1171).

Cross-border RMB Direct Investment (Shang Ban Zi Han [2011] No.1171).

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

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