Stealth Takeovers: How Hidden Shareholders Are Buying Companies 

In 2014, luxury firms LVMH Moët Hennessy, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès signed a truce, ending a long and arduous battle popularly known as the “handbag war.” The melee erupted in October 2010, when the fashion giant controlled by Bernard Arnault disclosed it had amassed a 17 percent stake in Hermès, which would eventually grow to over 22 percent.

LVMH had acquired a significant percentage of Hermès with relatively few people noticing. Instead of buying shares outright, it opted for equity derivatives, which did not require a shareholder to declare its position. Such takeover strategies are known as creeping acquisitions or … Read more

Davis Polk Discusses Whether Companies Should Play Strong Defense in Hostile Times

Extreme dislocation and a major sell-off in global equity markets have led to many public companies finding their stock prices at severely depressed levels, often over 50% off last twelve month highs.

While most companies and investors are in crisis management mode, these markets may nevertheless present attractive opportunities for strategic or financial bidders. Moreover, we expect that campaigns from well-known activists will continue at a reasonable pace in the current market.

Many companies prepare for the possibility of a hostile campaign by having a shareholder rights plan (often called a “poison pill”) “on the shelf” and ready for adoption … Read more

A “Majeure” Update on COVID-19 and MAEs

Beyond the extraordinary human toll it continues to exact, the coronavirus has thrown a pall of uncertainty over hundreds of corporate transactions that were signed and waiting to close at the pandemic’s onset. As we noted in our previous Blue Sky Blog post, an important factor for understanding the fate of these deals is the structure and scope of their force majeure provisions, known in transactional jargon as MAC/MAEs (henceforth ‘MAEs’). Our analysis utilized text analysis tools to evaluate historical data of MAEs in a population of M&A deals spanning more than a decade and a half (January 2003 … Read more

Gibson Dunn Offers Checklist for M&A Amid the Coronavirus

The emergence and rapid escalation of COVID-19 continues to alter every facet of daily life across the globe. For businesses, challenges range from protecting and supporting employees and customers, to contributing to evolving efforts to battle COVID-19, to fighting for survival by preserving liquidity and adapting to new and dramatically different operating conditions. Against this backdrop, the outlook for M&A activity is—understandably—highly uncertain. Assessing value and marshaling necessary financial and human resources are already challenging, and ongoing market volatility may well exacerbate this. Nevertheless, for various reasons, including strategy, opportunity and necessity, both companies and financial sponsors will continue to … Read more

Coronavirus Is Becoming a “Majeure” Headache for Pending Corporate Deals

A folk proverb from the American West teaches that the most important ingredient of a successful rain dance is timing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for signed corporate deals hanging in the balance at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.  As of this week, we estimate that there are just under 150 significant mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions signed and waiting to close, representing over half a trillion U.S. dollars in economic value. The fate of these deals has been thrown into considerable doubt by the COVID-19 crisis. And, in an uncanny resemblance to the onset of the Read more

Paul Weiss Offers M&A at a Glance for February 2020

M&A activity globally and in the U.S. was mixed in February. Overall, the number of deals continued to decline in both the U.S. and the rest of the world, while total deal value[1] showed signs of recovery relative to the low levels recorded in January. Globally, the number of deals decreased by 14.5%, to 2,344, while the total deal value  increased by 44.6%, to $255.23 billion. U.S. M&A activity was also mixed, with the number of deals decreasing by 17.3%, to 688, while total deal value increased by 28.7%, to $100.53 billion. Average deal value increased overall—rising by 55.6% … Read more

Cleary Gottlieb Discusses UK Merger Control Enforcement Ahead of Brexit

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is strengthening its approach to merger control as it prepares for its new status as a global enforcer with expanded jurisdiction.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK entered a transition period due to end on 31 December 2020.[1]  EU competition law continues to apply in the UK until the transition period ends (and to mergers notified to the European Commission before the end of that period), meaning that the European Commission continues to have exclusive jurisdiction over transactions with an EU dimension, including those impacting … Read more

Wachtell Lipton Discusses the Coming Impact of ESG on M&A

Recent months have seen institutional investors and other stakeholders, notably BlackRock and State Street, stressing the importance of comparable and decision-useful ESG disclosures by their portfolio companies.  Such calls follow in the wake of growing interest among investors and other stakeholders in understanding and assessing the performance of companies based on ESG metrics.  While the exact system by which companies will report on ESG issues remains to be determined by the market, it is clear that beginning in 2020, and in the years to follow, companies will be disclosing significant amounts of quantifiable information on a basis that will … Read more

Skadden Discusses Merger Reviews and Antitrust Investigations Under Brexit Agreement

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published “Guidance on the Functions of the CMA Under the Withdrawal Agreement” (Guidance), which sets out the regulator’s approach to merger and competition cases during the Brexit transition period that will run until at least through December 31, 2020 (Transition Period):

  • The Guidance confirms that during the Transition Period, the U.K. and the EU merger procedures will remain closely aligned. The EU competition and merger control rules will continue to apply as if the U.K. were still an EU member state.
  • The European Commission (EC) will have exclusive jurisdiction over

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Sullivan & Cromwell Discusses Delaware Chancery Ruling in “Panera” Appraisal Case

The Delaware Court of Chancery ruled in In re Appraisal of Panera Bread Company,[1] following a six-day trial, in a 130-page decision issued on January 31, 2020, that the petitioners received more than fair value for each share of Panera Bread Company (“Panera”) in connection with its 2017 acquisition by JAB Holdings B.V. (“JAB”), with the Court relying on the deal price, minus synergies value, as the metric of fair value for the case.  Because Panera had paid the appraisal petitioners the full merger price as permitted by Delaware law, it sought a refund of the amount of … Read more

Tesla, SolarCity, and Inherent Coercion

Tesla notched a trifecta of (legal) headlines this week, with three inter-related developments coming out of the shareholder challenge to the firm’s 2016 purchase of SolarCity: a settlement, a summary judgment decision, and an almost-certain trial featuring testimony by none other than Elon Musk.  When originally announced, Tesla’s $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity was hailed as a “no brainer,” and it was eventually approved by a majority of Tesla’s independent shareholders. That said, it was Musk himself who was doing much of the aforementioned hailing – and observers couldn’t help but take note of the appreciable ownership stake he held … Read more

Cleary Gottlieb Discusses Final CFIUS Regulations

On January 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) released final regulations (the “Final Regulations”)[1] implementing the updates to the foreign investment review process of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) contained in the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“FIRRMA”).  The Final Regulations, effective February 13, 2020, largely track the September 2019 proposed regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”)[2] to implement FIRRMA’s expansion of CFIUS’s jurisdiction.  FIRRMA in turn codified existing CFIUS practice as it has evolved in recent years, particularly … Read more

Fried Frank Discusses High Bar for Deeming Minority Shareholder a Controller

In In re Essendant Inc. Stockholder Litigation (Dec. 30, 2019), the plaintiff-stockholders of Essendant, Inc. (the “Company”) brought claims against the Company’s directors for their decision to terminate an agreement for a stock-for-stock merger with Genuine Parts Company (“GPC”) in order to enter into an all-cash deal offered by Staples, Inc. and its private equity firm parent, Sycamore Partners. The Delaware Court of Chancery, at the pleading stage of the litigation, rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that Sycamore, although a minority stockholder, was a controlling stockholder of the Company. In so ruling, Vice Chancellor Slights dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims that (i) … Read more

Leaks and Takeovers

When firms are takeover targets, they often experience a rise – or run-up – in the price of their stock even before the takeover is publicly announced. The common wisdom about run-ups is that information about the impending takeover is leaked to the market, which causes the stock price to increase. Some of these leaks are unintentional. Opportunistic outsiders overhear conversations or documents land in the wrong hands. Some leaks are driven by greed. Insiders trade on their privileged information to enrich themselves or pass their information on to friends and relatives. But what if information leaks have a strategic … Read more

Wachtell Lipton Discusses Mergers and Acquisitions—2020

Despite ebbs and flows of global economic uncertainty, M&A activity remained robust in 2019.  Total deal volume reached $4 trillion globally, a slight decrease from the $4.1 trillion volume in 2018, but higher than the $3.5 trillion in 2017.  The U.S. M&A market had a particularly strong year.  15 of the 20 largest deals involved U.S. companies, with deals involving U.S. targets totaling over $1.8 trillion, second only to the record of over $2 trillion set in 2015.  While deals over $10 billion fell from 60 globally in 2018 to 49 in 2019, deals over $25 billion increased from 16 … Read more

Fried Frank Discusses Delaware Chancery’s Latest Decision on Material Adverse Change Clauses

Channel Medsystems, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corporation (Dec. 18, 2019) is the Delaware Court of Chancery’s first decision issued since the Delaware Supreme Court’s 2018 Akorn decision to evaluate whether an acquiror had a right, under a merger agreement, to terminate a pending acquisition on the grounds that there was a “Material Adverse Effect” or “Material Adverse Change” in the target company. (We use “MAE” and “MAC” interchangeably in this memorandum.) Akorn was the first case in which the Court of Chancery, post-trial, found the existence of an MAE and the first post-trial Delaware decision to find that an acquiror … Read more

Wachtell Lipton Offers Acquisition Financing Year in Review: The Decade of Debt

2019 was another strong year for corporate borrowers, continuing a decade-long run marked by historically low interest rates and strong credit markets.  Over the last 10 years, total U.S. corporate bonds outstanding rose from $6 trillion to nearly $10 trillion, while leveraged loans expanded to $1.2 trillion from $500 billion.

But even in the midst of this bull market, new opportunities and challenges arose.  Two major trends from the last year stand out—the increased participation of “non-traditional lenders” as a financing source and the continued evolution of “debt default activism” as a material concern for borrowers.

The Acquisition Financing Markets

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Paul Weiss Offers M&A at a Glance for December 2019

M&A activity declined across most measures in December 2019. The number of deals fell by 17.3% in the U.S., to 613, and by 7.1% globally, to 2,665. Total deal value[1] decreased by 21.2% in the U.S., to $122.92 billion, but increased by 3.9% globally (driven primarily by sponsor-related activity), to $347.75 billion. Average deal value also decreased by 4.7% in the U.S., to $200.53 million, but increased by 11.9% globally (again driven primarily by sponsor-related activity), to $130.49 million. Figure 1. The good news, however, is that U.S. M&A activity was up overall for 2019, as we will … Read more

Wachtell Lipton Discusses U.S. M&A Antitrust Enforcement for 2019 and the Year Ahead

In a year of robust M&A activity, the U.S. antitrust agencies investigated and challenged transactions in many sectors of the economy.  The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice initiated court challenges to block four proposed transactions and required remedies in 17 more.  Companies also abandoned five transactions due to antitrust agency opposition, including three transactions abandoned shortly after the agency filed its court challenge.  In addition, a coalition of state attorneys general challenged in federal court the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, a transaction cleared, with the imposition of conditions, by the DOJ and the Federal Communications … Read more

The Future of the Large Law Firm: Growth, Mergers, and Inequality

By last count, there are now 29 U.S. law firms with at least 1,000 lawyers.[1]  In a few weeks, this number should rise to 32, primarily as the result of mergers.[2] My prediction is that this number will climb to well over 50 by the end of this decade. Still, two inconsistent trends are peaking at the same time: (1) large firms are growing in size, but (2) growth in the number of equity partners at these firms has stalled (and may even have declined). According to the annual survey by the National Law Journal, the number of … Read more