January 30, 2015
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to present its first year-end Activism Update reviewing shareholder activism involving U.S. public companies during 2014. 2014 was a busy year for activist investors – our survey covers 64 activist campaigns involving U.S.-listed companies with equity market capitalizations of greater than $1 billion.
The 2014 market environment provided fertile ground for activists to push for companies to engage in acquisitions, divestitures, spinoffs, and other strategic transactions, to return capital, and to consummate other common activist initiatives, such as management changes:
Against this backdrop, activist funds are now reported to manage approximately $200 billion. With more capital, activists can accumulate larger positions and are able to bear the costs of expensive proxy campaigns and litigation. In light of the ability of investors to sustain proxy contests and litigation and the increasing tendency of proxy advisory firms, long-only institutional investors, and research analysts to challenge company management and strategy, many companies are choosing to settle formally with activists or adopt positions consistent with activist demands. Of the campaigns studied in this Activism Update, 19% included formal settlement agreements granting board representation to activists. In many other cases, companies, whether as a result of the activist campaign or otherwise, took some action consistent with positions advocated by the activist investor. Only 11% of the campaigns studied in this Activism Update proceeded with a proxy campaign through the conclusion of a special or annual meeting.
The 64 activist campaigns covered by our survey demonstrate several other interesting trends:
Two other noteworthy practice observations: first, despite the general publicity garnered by activist investors in 2014, we are still finding that activists and companies more often than not engage privately, with public communication only after private efforts at resolving matters amicably have failed; and second, investors are increasingly employing derivatives to build stakes rapidly without triggering certain reporting requirements, including reporting requirements under The Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act and Schedule 13D.
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Activist investing in 2014 was marked by an increasingly dynamic, sophisticated and well-capitalized activist investor base. Our inaugural Activism Update is aimed at assisting clients seeking to better understand activism by remaining current on activist developments and trends. We look forward to providing you with our mid-year update later this year. We hope you find this Activism Update useful.
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