M & A Law Prof Blog

Editor: Brian JM Quinn
Boston College Law School

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Friday, May 13, 2011

M&A and Competition Law in India

This week the Competition Commission of India (CCI) released the new M&A regulations. These rules are somewhat softened from the stringent guidelines issued earlier this year (for various commentary see here).  For example, deals entered into prior to June 1st have been exempted, and filing fees have been significantly decreased (see this useful Mayer Brown summary). 

The rules exempt a host of transactions from the scrutiny of the CCI.  For example, if an acquirer has a 50% stake in a firm then further acquisition will not trigger the competition law except where the acquisition leads to transfer from joint control to single control.  Moreover a combination taking place entirely outside India with insignificant local nexus and effect on markets in India “need not normally be filed.” 

With respect to timing, the regulations provide that within 30 days of submission of the notification form the CCI is to form a prima facie opinion as to whether the combination is likely to cause or has caused an appreciable adverse effect on competition within the relevant market in India.  The proposed transaction will then be cleared or subject to a second phase investigation. The regulations provide that the CCI “shall endeavour to pass an order” in a second phase investigation within 180 days from the date of submission of the notification form.

The new regulations still leave some grey areas, such as failing to address pre-merger consultation, although the CCI has indicated that it will issue regulations on consultations.  There is also concern about potential conflict between the new rules and the proposed overhaul of the Takeover Code by SEBI.

-AA

May 13, 2011 in Antitrust, Asia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ganor on the Power to Issue Stock and Top-up Options

Mira Ganor has posted a paper, The Power to Issue Stock.  She takes on the question of board discretion to issue stock.  In particular, she focuses on the top-up option that has attracted recent attention.  

Abstract: Studies of management's disregard of the will of the shareholders have focused on combinations of entrenchment mechanisms and special governance structures. However, management's power to issue stock, a fundamental element of the ability of management to control the corporation regardless of the will of the shareholders, has received scarce attention. This Article highlights the significance of the power to issue stock: When managers choose to ignore the will of the majority of the shareholders or when managers choose to circumvent the veto power of the minority shareholders, they often take advantage of their power to issue stock. A top-up option, for example, which is studied in this Article, is contingent upon the managers' ability to issue shares and dilute the voting power of dissenting minority shareholders. The poison pill is also contingent upon the managers' ability to dilute a hostile-bidder by issuing shares to the shareholders. The ability of managers to use new stock issues as a shareholder-circumventing mechanism is particularly important. It plays a key role in the management’s arsenal and it provides an incentive for managers to reserve this unique power and refrain from diminishing it by, for example, replacing equity-based compensation and equity-financing with less efficient choices. This Article explores the key power of managers to issue stock as well as the current and potential limitations on this power. One such limitation is the size of the authorized capital of the corporation, which provides a ceiling for the total number of shares that can be issued. The ratio of authorized non-outstanding shares to the issued and outstanding shares, what I shall call the "excess-ratio", is an indicator of the magnitude of the managers' power to issue stock. A study of the excess-ratio reveals that corporations go public with a high excess-ratio the number of unissued authorized shares is more than threefold the number of issued shares. Further results of the study of the excess-ratio are analyzed in this Article

With respect to the top-up option she writes:

Top-up options ... are a powerful tool that has been increasingly used to dilute the voting power of opposing shareholders in takeovers supported by the board of directors. The grant of a top-up option as part of a take-over may allow for the consummation of a quick short-form merger without a shareholder meeting and despite the opposition of a significant number of the shareholders in excess of the statutory ceiling of ten percent of the shares. The effect of a top-up option is that a management friendly bidder faces only a truncated supply curve at the tender offer. This is because a top-up option lowers the percentage of shares needed to be tendered in order to have a successful outcome. In addition, the speed of the takeover process makes it harder for a competing bidder to launch an opposing bid. Like the poison pill, top-up options are contingent upon the managers‘ ability to issue a nontrivial number of shares and thus dilute the voting power of the dissenting minority shareholders.

Clearly, she disagrees with Vice Chancellor Laster.  I suppose he would respond - "If 70% of the shareholders have tendered, and if the merger agreement ensures that any back end consideration would not be subject to dilution, what are minority shareholders losing with a top-up.  It's not like the minority could ever win a shareholder vote for a back-end merger."

I tend to agree with the Vice Chancellor, but I'll admit that I'm uneasy about it.  There's no reason why an acquirer can't simply tender for 51% of the public shares and then do a back-end statutory merger.  If the shareholders can act by written consent, there's no need to even call a meeting.   There's no question that controlling shareholder will win the vote following a successful tender offer, so what's at stake?  Time?  Protection of minority rights?  Minority shareholders can rely on their appraisal rights in the backend merger if they are unhappy with the consideration, but, short of fiduciary duty claims, that's about it.  

Top-up options are sure to continue to generate discussion.  Ganor's article is a valuable contribution to that puzzle.

-bjmq 

 

May 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Laster on Top-up Options

Rick Climan walks Vice Chancellor Laster through the legal issues relating to top-up options.  If you don't want to watch his talk, you can read the equivalent in Vice Chancellor Laster's opinion in Olson v Ev3

In the talk, Laster refers to the top-up option in the Hawk/Carlisle transaction as an example of top-up option that has all the "magic language."  Here's the top-up option language that Laster liked:

SECTION 1.3 Top-Up Option.
     (a) Subject to Section 1.3(b) and Section 1.3(c), the Company grants to Merger Sub an irrevocable option (the “Top-Up Option”), for so long as this Agreement has not been terminated pursuant to the provisions hereof, to purchase from the Company up to the number (but not less than that number) of authorized and unissued shares of Company Common Stock equal to the number of shares of Company Common Stock that, when added to the number of Shares owned by Parent, Merger Sub or any Subsidiary of Parent at the time of the exercise of the Top-Up Option, constitutes at least one Share more than 90% of the Shares that would be outstanding immediately after the issuance of all shares of Company Common Stock to be issued upon exercise of the Top-Up Option (such Shares to be issued upon exercise of the Top-Up Option, the “Top-Up Shares”).
     (b) The Top-Up Option may be exercised by Merger Sub only once, at any time during the two-Business Day period following the Acceptance Time, or if any subsequent offering period is provided, during the two-Business Day period following the expiration date of such subsequent offering period, and only if Merger Sub shall own as of such time more than 75% but less than 90% of the shares of Company Common Stock outstanding; provided that, notwithstanding anything in this Agreement to the contrary, the Top-Up Option shall not be exercisable (i) to the extent the number of shares of Company Common Stock issuable upon exercise of the Top-Up Option would exceed the number of authorized but unissued and unreserved shares of Company Common Stock, (ii) if any Judgment then in effect shall prohibit the exercise of the Top-Up Option or the delivery of the Top-Up Shares, and (iii) unless Parent or Merger Sub has accepted for payment all Shares validly tendered in the Offer and not withdrawn. The Top-Up Option shall terminate upon the earlier to occur of (i) the Effective Time and (ii) termination of this Agreement in accordance with Article 8. The aggregate purchase price payable for the Top-Up Shares being purchased by Merger Sub pursuant to the Top-Up Option shall be determined by multiplying the number of such Top-Up Shares by the Offer Price, without interest. Such purchase price may be paid by Merger Sub, at its election, either (A) entirely in cash or (B) by paying in cash an amount equal to not less than the aggregate par value of such Top-Up Shares and by executing and delivering to the Company a promissory note having a principal amount equal to the balance of such purchase price. Any such promissory note shall bear interest at the rate of 3% per annum, shall mature on the first anniversary of the date of execution and delivery of such promissory note and may be prepaid without premium or penalty. Without the prior written consent of the Company, the right to exercise the Top-Up Option granted pursuant to this Agreement shall not be assigned by Merger Sub except to any direct or indirect wholly owned Subsidiary of Parent. Any attempted assignment in violation of this Section 1.3(b) shall be null and void.
     (c) In the event Merger Sub wishes to exercise the Top-Up Option, Merger Sub shall deliver to the Company written notice (the “Top-Up Notice”) setting forth (i) the number of Top- Up Shares that Merger Sub intends to purchase pursuant to the Top-Up Option, (ii) the manner in which Merger Sub intends to pay the applicable purchase price and (iii) the place and time at which the closing of the purchase of such Top-Up Shares by Merger Sub is to take place. The Top-Up Notice shall also include an undertaking signed by Parent and Merger Sub that, promptly following such exercise of the Top-Up Option, Merger Sub intends to consummate the Merger in accordance with Section 253 of the DGCL as contemplated by Section 6.1(c). At the closing of the purchase of the Top-Up Shares, Parent and Merger Sub shall cause to be delivered to the Company the consideration required to be delivered in exchange for the Top-Up Shares, and the Company shall cause to be issued to Merger Sub a certificate representing the Top-Up Shares. The parties hereto agree to use their reasonable best efforts to cause the closing of the purchase of the Top-Up Shares to occur on the same day that the Top-Up Notice is deemed received by the Company pursuant to Section 9.1, and if not so consummated on such day, as promptly thereafter as possible. The parties further agree to use their reasonable best efforts to cause the Merger to be consummated in accordance with Section 253 of the DGCL as contemplated by Section 6.1(c) as close in time as possible to (including, to the extent possible, on the same day as) the issuance of the Top-Up Shares. Parent, Merger Sub and the Company shall cooperate to ensure that any issuance of the Top-Up Shares is accomplished in a manner consistent with all applicable Laws.
     (d) Parent and Merger Sub understand that the Top-Up Shares will not be registered under the Securities Act, and will be issued in reliance upon an exemption thereunder for transactions not involving a public offering. Each of Parent and Merger Sub represents and warrants to the Company that Merger Sub is, and will be upon any exercise of the Top-Up Option, an “accredited investor” as defined in Rule 501 of Regulation D promulgated under the Securities Act. Each of Parent and Merger Sub represents, warrants and agrees that the Top-Up Option is being, and the Top-Up Shares will be, acquired by Merger Sub for the purpose of investment and not with a view to or for resale in connection with any distribution thereof within the meaning of the Securities Act. Any certificates evidencing Top-Up Shares shall include any legends required by applicable securities Laws.
     (e) Any dilutive impact on the value of the Shares as a result of the issuance of the Top-Up Shares will not be taken into account in any determination of the fair value of any Appraisal Shares pursuant to Section 262 as contemplated by Section 2.7(c).

 

OK, me?  Still grading.

-bjmq

May 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Latest Reverse Termination Fee Study

The Practical Law Company has issued a new study of study of reverse termination fees and specific performance in public merger agreements. The study (which can be accessed here) covers 2010 deals (181 merger agreements with a signing value of at least $100 million).  It looks like specific performance remained the dominant contractual remedy for a buyer’s failure to close the transaction due to a breach or financing failure, especially in the case of strategic buyers. Financial-buyer deals, however, were more varied.

- AA

May 11, 2011 in Merger Agreements, Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hertz takes another bite at the Dollar apple

Hertz announced this morning that it was giving the acquisition of Dollar Thrifty another go.  You'll remember that last year, Dollar terminated its agreement with Hertz after Dollar shareholders voted no on its $50/share offer.   The sharehodler vote followed sharehiolder litigation in Delaware to try to get the deal protections in the Hertz-Dollar deal invalidated (In re Dollar Thrifty), resulting in a termination of the merger agreement.  Following which Dollar and Avis entered into protracted - and so far unsuccessful = talks amongst themselves and the antitrust authorities about getting a deal done.  

Apparently, Hertz has decided enough is enough and has decided to jump back in - hoping that Dollar shareholders will think differently this time around. Here's a summary of the new offer from the Hertz press release:

Hertz will offer Dollar Thrifty shareholders $72.00 per share (based on Hertz’s closing stock price on May 6, 2011), consisting of $57.60 in cash and 0.8546 shares of Hertz.  The offer represents:
   
    * a 26% premium and 18% premium to Dollar Thrifty’s 90-day and 60-day average share price, respectively;
    * a 7.6x multiple of Dollar Thrifty’s LTM EBITDA for the period ended March 31, 2011; and
a 24% premium to the value of the entirely hypothetical price announced by Avis Budget Group, Inc. (“Avis Budget”) over seven months ago.
 
In an e-mail to employees, Hertz's CEO Mark Frissora provides a little more information about their reasons for giving the acquisition of Dollar one more try.

You may wonder why we are moving forward now after the unsuccessful Dollar Thrifty shareholder vote last fall.  First, the vote did not prevent Hertz from re-engaging at any time of our choosing.  Additionally, economic conditions continue to improve, creating revenue growth opportunities over the next several years.  Moreover, Avis has been trying unsuccessfully for the past 12 months to secure government approval to buy Dollar Thrifty and all they have to show for their year-long efforts are “constructive discussions” with U.S. regulators.  We don’t believe Avis can get a deal done and the time is right to resolve this matter once and for all to our and Dollar Thrifty’s satisfaction.

In contrast with Avis, we’ve picked up where we left off with the government last fall and we are confident we can secure its consent to proceed.  Unfortunately, that will mean divesting Advantage Rent-a-Car in the U.S., which is not our preference, but it’s clear that a merger with Dollar Thrifty becomes far more difficult if the government opposes the transaction.

For its part, Hertz appears to be taking an aggressive stance towards offering Dollar's shareholders a deal they can't refuse.  It's offering an improved bid and is committing to  sell its Advantage rental brand (e-mail to Advantage employees)- to help clear the way for regulators to provide clearance to the proposed transaction. We'll see how Doolar II proceeds and whether shareholders have a different view on the transaction given what they've seen over the past few months. 

-bjmq

Update: Reuters has a timeline for this deal here.

May 9, 2011 in Antitrust, Transaction Defenses, Transactions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)