Qu’est-ce qu’une « contestation » pour le contrôle d’une entreprise ?

On assiste à de plus en plus de « contestations » de la part d’actionnaires activistes pour l’obtention du contrôle des entreprises cotées.

Qu’est-ce qu’une campagne de contestation (proxy contest) ? Quelles formes ces contestations prennent-elles ? Quels raisons incitent certains actionnaires activistes à aller de l’avant avec leurs propositions de changement ? Que peuvent faire les conseils d’administration pour se préparer à une attaque éventuelle et pour se protéger efficacement ?

Le document, préparé conjointement par Corporate Board Member du NYSE et Kroll, un leader mondial dans le conseil en gouvernance, répond très bien à ces questions. Voici un court extrait d’un article où Bob Brenner, associé de  Kroll, répond aux questions. Bonne lecture.

Proxy Contests and Corporate Control 


In general, the term corporate contest refers to several different situations in which a shareholder(s) or other corporate entity tries to force a change of control in a company. The two most common situations where we get involved are proxy fights and takeover attempts.

Proxy fights generally arise in two types of situations. In the first, an existing shareholder(s) seeks board representation to change corporate behavior or governance because the shareholder is unhappy with the company’s performance and the unwillingness of the board of directors to alter course or change the status quo. Typically, such a contest begins after quiet, protracted negotiation between the board/management and a prominent shareholder, during which the shareholder expresses ideas for change or displeasure with policy or direction and is rebuffed.

P1010745The second type of proxy fight, which we describe as “opportunistic,” does not start with an existing investment or position. Instead, it is marked by a rapid accumulation of stock by a new shareholder. The shareholder, or group of shareholders, acquires the stock on the premise that the board and/or management is failing to maximize the company’s assets. If the new shareholder can pressure the company to change policy, management, or board composition, fine. If not, they are prepared to force the issue.

“Activist” investors have had great success in these types of corporate contests. Typically, they target companies that have seen a decrease in share price over time. The well-funded activist investor claims to be ready, able, and more than willing to roll up its sleeves and implement change.

Historically, outright unsolicited or hostile takeover bids have formed a large part of the corporate contest world. In the case of a takeover bid, one corporate entity offers to buy another, frequently a competitor or an entity with a good synergistic fit. In far fewer instances, an activist shareholder may desire to purchase the outstanding shares of an entity from existing shareholders in order to obtain control of that entity so that it may effectuate immediate change. These types of contests are rarely launched by activist funds as these efforts require large amounts of capital to be sunk into one investment, a tactic that hedge funds generally try to avoid. True hostile takeover bids have declined in recent years.

Proxy Contests on the Rise – Activists Emboldened by Success (levick.com)

Statistiques sur les « Proxy Contests » (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Career Consequences of Proxy Contests (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Investor hints at proxy fight with Bob Evans because of ‘board’s apathetic posture’ (bizjournals.com)

Board Members Versus Hedge Fund Activists (venitism.blogspot.com)

Boards Should Minimize the Role of Proxy Advisors (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

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