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

M&A (General)

DUTCH UPDATE – AkzoNobel v. Elliott: landmark case on board conduct in takeover situations

Editors’ Note: Contributed by Geert Potjewijd, managing partner at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, and a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable, and Arne Grimme and Reinier Kleipool, partners at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek. De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek is a leading Dutch law firm with broad expertise in M&A and governance matters.

The Enterprise Chamber has ruled that a company’s response to an unsolicited takeover proposal falls within the board’s authority to determine the company’s strategy. The board does not have to consult with shareholders first, but remains accountable to shareholders for the company’s actions. The ruling sets out important viewpoints for board conduct and other aspects of corporate governance in takeover situations.

Background

Akzo Nobel N.V. recently received three unsolicited takeover proposals from PPG Industries, Inc. The AkzoNobel management and supervisory boards have unanimously rejected these proposals, in each case after an extensive and careful decision-making process. On 1 June 2017 PPG announced the withdrawal of its takeover proposal for AkzoNobel.

In response to the proposals by PPG, activist hedge fund Elliott International, L.P. demanded from AkzoNobel that it enter into discussions with PPG. After AkzoNobel rejected PPG’s third proposal, Elliott filed a petition with the Enterprise Chamber in Amsterdam requesting a corporate inquiry into AkzoNobel’s conduct and policies, and certain interim measures, including an extraordinary general meeting to vote on the dismissal of the chairman of AkzoNobel’s supervisory board.

Corporate governance in takeover situations

In its judgment of 29 May 2017, the Enterprise Chamber denied the requests by Elliott and others to order interim measures, as it did not see sufficient reason to order any such measures. The Enterprise Chamber will rule on the request for a corporate inquiry at a later date.

The ruling by the Enterprise Chamber sets out important viewpoints for corporate governance in takeover situations.

Authority and accountability of the board

  • A company’s response to an unsolicited takeover proposal falls under the authority of the management board to determine the company’s strategy, under supervision of the supervisory board.
  • Shareholders do not have to be consulted prior to the company’s response to an unsolicited takeover proposal, but the management and supervisory boards remain accountable to shareholders for the company’s actions.
  • In assessing an unsolicited takeover proposal, the board must be guided by the interests of the company and its stakeholders with a view to long term value creation. As a logical consequence, an unsolicited proposal could be reasonably rejected even against the will of (a majority of) shareholders.
  • While the Enterprise Chamber does not test the validity of the grounds for rejecting an unsolicited takeover proposal, it is important that the company show it has seriously considered the proposal by following a careful decision-making process. Relevant factors are:
    • the intensity and frequency of management and supervisory board meetings;
    • the assistance from respected external financial and legal advisers;
    • the range of topics considered when rejecting the proposal (e.g. value, timing, certainty and stakeholder considerations).

Duty to negotiate

  • There is no general obligation for a target company to enter into substantive discussions or negotiations with a bidder that has made an unsolicited takeover proposal, not even in the case of a serious bidder making a serious bid.
  • The obligation of managing and supervising directors to properly perform their duties may lead to a requirement to enter into discussions or negotiations with a bidder. Whether substantive discussions or negotiations with a bidder are required depends on the actual circumstances, which may include:
    • whether the company has decided to abandon its standalone strategy;
    • the bidder’s strategic intentions;
    • to what extent the company can assess the proposal without substantive discussions;
    • other interactions between the company and the bidder, including whether the company has given the bidder sufficient insight into the reasons for its rejection as to enable the bidder to improve on its proposal;
    • whether the company can realistically withdraw from such discussions or negotiations, especially if there are reasons to anticipate a breach of confidentiality, which could impact the company’s share price and shareholder base.

Relationship with shareholders

  • Shareholders are entitled to adequate information about the considerations underpinning those policies, not only with a view to exercising their rights as a shareholder, but also to determine their own investment policies.
  • A continued lack of confidence of a substantial number of shareholders in the company’s strategy as determined by the management and supervisory boards is harmful to the company and its stakeholders. It is in principle up to the boards of the company to consider how the company can normalise its relationship with shareholders.

With this ruling, the Enterprise Chamber confirmed that it is the exclusive authority of the boards of a Dutch company to determine the response to an unsolicited takeover proposal. The boards do not have a duty to consult with shareholders prior to responding to an unsolicited takeover proposal. In such a situation, the boards need to carefully take into account the interests of all stakeholders of the company and they remain accountable to shareholders on the position taken in response to an unsolicited takeover proposal.

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.

PERUVIAN UPDATE – The Impact of “Lava Jato” on M&A in Peru

Editors’ Note:  This post was written by Jose Antonio Payet and Mario Lercari Bueno of Payet Rey Cauvi Pérez, one of Peru’s leading firms with significant experience in foreign investment in Peru.  Mr. Payet is a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable.

Background: Lava Jato reaches Peru

Corruption has always been a sensitive issue when doing business in Latin America. In recent years, the Brazilian “Lava Jato” investigation has been in the spotlight for its implications throughout the continent. Brazilian construction giants such as Odebrecht, OAS, Camargo Correa, Andrade Gutierrez and Quieroz Galvao, among others, were indicted in Brazil and other jurisdictions with criminal charges for corrupt practices. As the evidence for this corruption network became clearer, the main representatives of these companies started to participate in leniency programs to reveal information concerning the officials of the respective countries that were involved in the corrupt practices. Peru has been no exception to this reality.

The indictment issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in late 2016 states that Odebrecht representatives acknowledged the payment of US$ 29,000,000 to Peruvian officials from 2005 to 2014. For these payments, Odebrecht allegedly received illegal benefits such as the award of investment projects with favorable conditions, the disqualification of other consortia in the bidding processes, and the execution of addenda to increase projects costs, among others alleged benefits.

This revelation started a political crisis in Peru in which it became clear that major investment projects during 2005 to 2014 were tainted by corrupt practices affecting bidders and Peruvian officials. Criminal investigations have been started against the responsible public officers  – some officers are already imprisoned and an international warrant has been issued for the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo for charges of receiving a USD 20 million dollar bribe from Odebrecht.  In this context, the Government of Peru (“GOP”) has issued additional measures directed mainly to provide additional safeguards against corruption in public bidding processes, to prevent the sale of assets by companies involved in cases which would jeopardize payment of penalties to the Government, and to increase sanctions for companies involved in corruption practices.

The Government takes action: Measures to counter corruption practices

On October 2016, the Peruvian Congress passed an authoritative law in which it delegated to the executive branch faculties to legislate in the prevention and fight against corrupt practices, among other matters. Under such circumstances, the executive branch issued Legislative Decrees N° 1341 and N° 1352 that introduced severe administrative sanctions to companies convicted for corrupt practices and money laundering. Furthermore, on February 2017, the executive branch issue an Urgency Decree to prevent the sale of assets of companies convicted for such crimes. Finally, new legislation establishing criminal liability of legal entities has been passed.

All these measures have an important impact in M&A processes, including due diligence, structure, drafting and execution.

  • Modification of the State Procurement Law (Ley de Contrataciones del Estado): Legislative Decree N° 1341 modifies the State Procurement Law to incorporate new grounds for permanently disqualifying entities to contract with the GOP. In this sense, a company whose representatives have been convicted in any jurisdiction for corruption related crimes and/or money laundering will not be able to contract with the Republic of Peru. The same sanction applies if such representatives acknowledge the commission of such crimes in a leniency program in any jurisdiction.
  • Criminal and administrative sanctions for companies: Legislative Decree N° 1352 establishes administrative sanctions for the companies whose representatives have been convicted for corruption related crimes and/or money laundering, among others. In this cases, the liability of the company is determined in the criminal process of the person(s) that allegedly committed such crimes. The administrative sanctions that the criminal judge may impose are:
    • Fines of more than the double of the illegal profits obtained but less than six times such profits;
    • Disqualification in any of the following forms: (a) suspension of the company’s activities, (b) temporal or definitive prohibition to carry out the same activities in which the criminal conduct was performed and (c) to contract with the GOP.
    • Cancelation of licenses, concessions or rights or any other authorization granted;
    • Temporal or definitive foreclosure of their offices and/or establishments; and
    • Dissolution of the company.

The implicated company may avoid these administrative sanctions if, prior to the commission of the crime, it adopts and implements in its organization a prevention model appropriate to its nature, risks, needs and characteristics, consisting of appropriate monitoring and control measures to prevent the aforementioned crimes or to significantly reduce risk of their commission.

Change of ownership in a company does not affect liability for past acts.

  • Restriction of the Transfer of Assets: Urgency Decree N° 003-2017 and its Guidelines establish certain restrictions for companies which are included within its scope of application. The most relevant provisions include: (i) restriction on the transfer of funds abroad, (ii) the need for prior authorization from the Ministry of Justice in case of a transfer of rights and/or assets; and, (iii) the withholding of payments that GOP entities must execute in favor of the included companies. The subjective scope of this regulation will be applicable to the following companies:
    • Companies which have been convicted or whose officials or representatives have been convicted in Perú or abroad by a final decision for crimes against public administration or money laundering or equivalent crimes (if they have been committed in other countries) against the GOP.
    • Companies which have recognized or whose officials or representatives have recognized the commission of crimes against public administration or money laundering or equivalent crimes (if they have been recognized in other countries) against the GOP.
    • Related parties to the companies set forth in the preceding items.

To this date only the economic group of Odebrecht S.A has been included under the scope of this decree.

The GOP has dictated other measures to prevent and fight corrupt practices. In this sense, it is worth noting that all the new PPP Agreements shall include an anti-corruption provision that will permit the GOP to terminate any PPP Agreement in which corrupt acts were performed during bidding or selection process to award the PPP.

Lava Jato’s hangover: A new way of dealing with M&As

The Lava Jato investigation is having a profound impact in the political landscape in Peru. Information received in leniency programs in Peru, Brazil and the United States, have allowed Peruvian prosecutors to indict corrupt officials, and further investigations are underway. Although these investigations will have a short term negative impact in infrastructure investment in Peru, the long term effects will probably be beneficial.

On the other hand, companies involved in the Lava Jato investigation will probably need to sell some or all their Peruvian assets. These include assets in toll roads, electricity generation, irrigation, oil and gas, among others. Many of these M&A transactions will have to comply with the provisions of Urgency Decree N° 003-2017.

In addition, as criminal and administrative sanctions to companies have grown harsher, Peruvian companies must implement compliance and prevention models according to its nature, risks, needs and characteristics. Accordingly, legal firms are upgrading their compliance and white collar criminal law practices as future M&A transactions will surely include an in-depth revision of compliance and prevention models of the target companies.

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.

GLOBAL STATISTICAL UPDATE – XBMA Quarterly Review for First Quarter 2017

Editors’ Note: The XBMA Review is published on a quarterly basis in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of trends and developments. In order to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the Review has utilized generally consistent metrics and sources of data since inception. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving the XBMA Review or for interpreting the data.

Executive Summary/Highlights:

  • Global M&A volume in Q1 totaled approximately US$778 billion, approximately 10% higher than Q1 2016, marking the second highest Q1 since 2011.
  • Cross-border M&A activity accounted for 43% of global deal volume in Q1, above 2016 levels, and led by activity in the Materials and Healthcare sectors.  Five of the 10 largest deals in Q1 were cross-border transactions.
  • European M&A activity accounted for almost 29% of deal volume in Q1, up substantially from recent levels, whereas Chinese and U.S. M&A accounted for smaller percentages of global deal volume than in recent years.
  • The Energy & Power sector accounted for over US$665 billion in global deal volume over the past 12 months, exceeding by nearly $190 billion and retaking the lead from the High Technology sector.
  • However, the Materials sector accounted for the largest share of cross-border M&A activity over the past 12 months, exceeding US$230 billion, with cross-border deals accounting for 59% of global deal volume in this sector.  Cross-border deals also drove deal activity in the Consumer Staples sector, representing 71% of total M&A activity.

Click here to see the Review.

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.

FRENCH UPDATE – Cross-Border Mergers Into and Out of France

Editors’ Note: Bertrand Cardi, a partner at Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier and a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable, contributed this article. Bertrand Cardi, Ben Burman, Forrest G. Alogna, partners, and Laurent Gautier and Damien Catoir, of counsel, of Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, authored the following article. Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier is the leading firm in France in the practice of M&A and Takeovers.

Executive Summary/Highlights

This memorandum describes the procedure and effects of a cross-border merger pursuant to Directive 2005/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies (the “Cross-Border Merger Directive”), as transposed into French law.  We focus on the French corporate law aspects of such a transaction but refer to analogous principles in other European jurisdictions (in particular, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).

This year will mark the official tenth anniversary of the transposition of the Cross-Border Merger Directive into the national law of most if not all Member States.

The Cross-Border Merger Directive has generally been regarded as a success, facilitating corporate mobility and permitting enterprises to more fully benefit from the right of free establishment and free movement throughout the EU.  This increased corporate mobility within Europe has promoted increased deal synergies, supporting regulatory competition among Member States and more generally reducing organizational costs.

As we describe below, implementing a cross-border merger under the Cross-Border Merger Directive remains complex and cumbersome even relative to other sophisticated transaction structures.  Reforms are currently under consideration to streamline the process, as well as to put in place a European regime for cross-border spin-offs, but remain at an early stage.

Despite uncertainties within the European Union, cross-border deal activity remains strong, including transactions structured as cross-border mergers.  For example, the TechnipFMC transaction which completed in January 2017 under a UK incorporated holding company represents the largest arm’s length cross-border merger under the Directive to date.  It remains to be seen whether Brexit-driven transactions will be a significant (although perhaps circumscribed) additional source of cross-border mergers in Europe in the coming years.

Click here to see the full article

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 – If Pills Are Out, Are Private Placements In?

Editors’ Note: This article was co-authored by Poonam Puri, a professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, an affiliated scholar at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and a respected adviser on issues of corporate governance, corporate law and securities laws, and by Patricia Olasker a senior partner at Davies in the M&A, capital markets and mining practices. It was submitted to XBMA by Davies partner Berl Nadler who is a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable.

Executive Summary: Canada’s new takeover bid regime got its first serious test with Hecla Mining’s attempted hostile takeover of Dolly Varden Silver. Under the new takeover bid rules, poison pills as a bid defence may soon be a thing of the past, to be replaced by private placements as the defensive tactic of choice for many targets. The joint decision of the Ontario and British Columbia securities commissions in Hecla v Dolly Varden articulates the definitive code for determining when a target company’s private placement will be deemed an illegal defensive tactic.

Our article recently published in Listed magazine explains the four-stage analysis for determining whether your private placement will survive regulatory scrutiny and, more importantly, how to structure your private placement in a way that will protect it from a Dolly-Varden-type challenge.

Main Article:

A version of this article originally appeared in Listed Magazine.

Consider this: a cash-strapped junior resource company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange is looking for ways to continue its exploration program for the coming year. With only $200,000 in its bank account, a $2-million loan from a significant shareholder that’s coming due, and an expected burn of $4 to $5 million for its drilling plans for the next year, financing is top of the agenda for both the board and management. Sound familiar?

The company considers extending the existing loan, but the lender refuses to commit to an extension until closer to renewal. Wanting certainty, the company decides to pursue a $6-million private placement, which it plans to use to pay off the existing loan and continue drilling. However, immediately after talks break down with the lender over loan amendments, the lender announces its intention to launch a hostile bid at a 55% premium over the market price. A week later, the company announces a private placement that would dilute existing equity by 43%, and the lender runs to the securities regulators demanding that they intervene by cease-trading the private placement. Should the securities commissions intervene?

This is exactly what happened in Hecla Mining’s unsolicited takeover bid for Dolly Varden Silver Corp. (TSX-V:DV) in July 2016. The Ontario and B.C. securities commissions refused to intervene and in October released a rare joint decision, explaining why. Simply put, they found that the company made the private placement for non-defensive business purposes. They noted that the company was contemplating an equity financing well before the offer was announced, the size of the private placement was reasonable, and it had not changed in size or scope after the bid surfaced. The commissions also explicitly recognized the market reality in Canada that junior listed companies often have to engage in dilutive equity transactions for legitimate business purposes.

Dolly Varden was the first contested transaction since Canada’s new takeover bid regime came into effect in Canada in May 2016. Different from the principles underlying takeover legislation in the  United  States,  where  boards  can  “just  say  no,”  Canada’s  takeover  bid  framework  is premised on the principle that shareholders should ultimately decide whether to accept or reject a takeover bid. The new rules change the balance of power between target boards and target shareholders, and between target boards and hostile bidders. Here, we’ve compiled a list of six implications of the new takeover code and the new approach to the regulation of defensive tactics in the post-poison-pill era.

  1. Hostile bids will be more difficult to complete successfully. The 105-day time period that a bid must now remain open means that a hostile bidder will incur greater costs and uncertainty. It will bear the risk of changed market conditions, volatility in underlying prices and changes to the target’s business. Other competing bidders might step in, and the initial bidder’s efforts in uncovering the opportunity may be all for nothing. This will, no doubt, make some potential bidders pause and think twice about bidding at all.
  2. Target boards have more time. Target boards now have more time to evaluate a bid, look for white knights, pursue alternatives and/or make a strong case to shareholders to reject the bid. A target board and its advisers can establish a strategic process with some greater certainty on timing (as opposed to the shorter, more variable periods that securities commissions have historically allowed for poison pills).
  3. Target boards have more leverage. Interested bidders are more likely to negotiate directly with target boards. Bidders who negotiate a friendly deal directly with the target’s board can have the target reduce the 105-day bid period to 35 days. This clearly gives the target’s board some negotiating leverage.
  4. Bids cannot succeed without the support of a majority of shareholders. The new requirement for a 50% minimum tender means that shareholders won’t be able to tender their shares to the bidder if the bid isn’t supported by a majority of the target’s shareholders. Under the old regime, bidders would often reserve the right to waive their own self-imposed minimum tender condition. This meant that even if a bidder was unsuccessful in achieving a majority of the target’s shares, it might have seized the opportunity to become a significant minority shareholder (e.g., 30% owner) by waiving its minimum tender condition and achieving a blocking position. Not possible anymore.
  1. Poison pills as a bid defence will be a thing of the past. The new regime is silent on shareholder rights plans but, given the significant extension of the minimum bid period and the codification of the minimum tender condition and 10-day bid extension typically required by rights plans, we see fewer companies adopting rights plans. And we don’t expect that regulators will allow issuers to use rights plans to further postpone takeup by hostile bidders beyond the 105 days.

That said, depending on their circumstances, some issuers may want to maintain rights plans so that they can have some protection against “creeping bids.” Creeping bids involve the practice of assembling positions over time greater than 20% of a company’s outstanding shares through acquisitions (like private placements and market purchases) that are exempt from the takeover bid rules.

  1. Other defence tactics will emerge and be scrutinized by regulators. Although poison pills (and the usual pill hearings at which they were challenged as an  illegal  defensive  tactic)  are likely a thing of the past, target boards are going to  be  more  carefully scrutinized  on  other defensive tactics, including private placements. This is where the fine print of the commissions’ decision in Dolly Varden is important.

Here’s their analysis in four simple stages (see accompanying diagram).

A: Threshold Question. Can the bidder show that the private placement has a material impact on the bid? For example, is there significant dilution?  Or  will  it  make  it  impossible  for  the bidder to satisfy the mandatory 50% tender condition?  If  yes,  then  go  to  stage  B.  If  the answer is no, the commission won’t intervene.

B: Preliminary Analysis. Can the target board show that the private placement was not a defensive tactic designed to alter the dynamics of the bid process? This question looks at intention and purpose, not effect. At this step, the target is responsible to provide evidence of the following:

  • it had a serious and immediate need for the financing;
  • it had a bona fide business strategy involving equity financing by way of private placement;
  • the private placement was not planned or modified in response to, or in anticipation of, a bid.

If the answer is yes, then the commission won’t intervene. If the answer is no or maybe, then go to the next stage.

C: Full-Blown Analysis. If the private placement is (or might be) a defensive tactic, then securities commissions must do a more extensive analysis to decide if they should intervene, focusing on their investor protection mandate but taking into account that corporate law defers to a large extent to board decision-making. In addition to the factors set out in the previous step, they’ll also consider the following:

  • Does the private placement benefit shareholders by, for example, allowing the target to continue its operations through the term of the bid? Or in allowing the board to engage in an auction process without unduly impairing the bid?
  • To what extent does the private placement alter the preexisting bid dynamics, for example, by depriving shareholders of the ability to tender to the bid?
  • Are investors in the private placement related parties to the target? Or is there other evidence that some or all of them will act in such a way as to enable the target’s board to “just say no” to the bid or a competing bid?
  • Is there is any information available that indicates the views of the target shareholders with respect to the takeover bid and/or the private placement?
  • Did the target’s board appropriately consider the interplay between the private placement and the bid, including the effect of the resulting dilution on the bid and the need for financing?

D: Final Stage. Is there any other policy reason to interfere with the private placement under the commissions’ public interest power?

In the 105 days it will now take to consummate a hostile bid, target boards will likely struggle more with how to meet their financing needs during that lengthy period. This will be especially true for junior resource companies whose only source of financing is typically equity. Hostile bidders can be expected to heavily scrutinize these financing transactions and challenge them routinely.

Takeaways: For companies contemplating a financing and wanting to protect it from a Dolly- Varden-like challenge, here are some things to think about:

  • Make sure you document in board minutes your earliest considerations of a possible financing, plus the need for and the intended use of proceeds, so that the record establishes that your plan was under consideration before any bid was announced.
  • Make sure the private placement is “right-sized,” i.e., no bigger than necessary to meet the demonstrable financing need.
  • Don’t increase or otherwise tinker with a private placement in the face of or in anticipation of a bid.
  • Make sure board minutes reflect the board’s consideration of the impact of the private placement on the bid.
  • Ensure that some of your key shareholders are supportive of the private placement in case you need their support at a defensive tactics hearing.
  • Avoid placing the securities in the hands of related parties or others known to be supportive of the target and likely opposed to the bid.
  • Consider offering the bidder the opportunity to participate in the private placement.
  • Avoid structuring the private placement so that the bidder’s failure to meet the required 50% minimum condition is inevitable.
  • Consider pre-emptively applying to the securities commission for an order excluding the newly issued securities from the required minimum tender condition.
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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