In 2019, we saw a sharp increase in shareholder activist campaigns in France and five of France’s largest companies faced activist campaigns from some of the world’s most well-known activist funds. Not only has the level of activity increased, but the strategy has taken on more of a U.S. style with more aggressive, less patient and more public campaigns.
France’s state-owned investment fund BPI France declared itself ready to deploy funds to defend French companies, France’s finance minister pledged new regulation to prevent the agitation of French companies and lawmakers in France’s parliament presented the findings of a cross-party report into activist investors and recommended regulatory and procedural changes to rebalance the relationship between companies and activists.
Senior journalists from The Deal, the leading U.S. news source on activism, M&A and changes in corporate control, will be joined by the most respected investors and corporate executives to examine the current state of shareholder activism in France, and provide vital guidance around the new age of activism in Europe.
In 2019, we saw a spike in activist hedge funds pushing for change at some of France’s best-known companies. In the not too distant past, it would have been unheard of for a French company’s shareholder register to have foreign investors, but the country’s protectionism is being challenged by a new wave of shareholder activists. Outside investors have been vocal about criticizing corporate governance in France, as politicians are looking for ways to allow French companies to resist activist investors. This panel examines the current state of the market in France and explores what we might see for the rest of 2020.
In October, France’s parliament presented the findings of a cross-party report into activist investors, recommending that regulators should lower the threshold at which a shareholder is required to disclose a stake to 3% from 5%. If adopted, the provision could represent a big win for companies as they face a growing number of activist investors. This panel will examine that possibility as well as France’s commercial code, Nouvelles Régulations Economiques, amended in 2019, which imposes severe penalties on French investors who don’t disclose their positions privately to French corporations, both big and small. The code allows French corporations to have a much better understanding than their U.S. counterparts of who their shareholders are at any moment in time. Experts will examine the disclosure code and what it means for M&A and activist investors.
In 2019, foreign activists continued to push for European mergers, acquisitions and take-privates while others tried to block some deals from happening. Instead of buying a stake in the target and seeking to squeeze the buyer to pay more, activists are arguing that the buyer is overpaying and should cancel their acquisition. Will we see a spike in U.S. activists using this tactic in France and other European deals?
The world’s largest companies are under pressure from the world’s most influential investors to properly assess and respond to ESG risks and opportunities. The companies that are most transparent about their ESG policies are gaining favor with index fund managers, while those that are not, have found themselves in the crosshairs of prominent activist investors. Our panel of experts will explore the ESG initiatives being discussed in the boardroom, and how the world’s largest influential investors and shareholder activist funds are capitalizing on this trend.
French companies need to be mindful of not only of the threat of U.S and foreign based activism, but more broadly across their overall shareholder base. Every company knows it needs to be its own activist but what are the best practices and what does a company then do with that information. How should companies behave proactively and what types of initiatives, assessments, engagement programs and communication strategies should they be instituting to position themselves so that they are never attacked by an activist?
When an activist gains a board seat, is it even possible for executives and board members to continue to communicate effectively, and find a common ground with the activist? How does a board continue to operate to avoid disruption and polarization? This panel explores how to effectively collaborate and create a process for interaction with an activist appointed board member, influential shareholders and institutional investors, both domestic and foreign, who all have different goals and priorities.
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The Corporate Governance conference attracts senior executives, board members and investors from a variety of sectors. Attendees will walk away with smart strategies, actionable tactics and connections to the people shaping the future of shareholder engagement.
Sponsorship: Jenney Smith E: [email protected] P: 212-224-3026
Register/Press: Nicole Harris E: [email protected] P: 212-224-3040
Speakers: Eric Salvarezza E: [email protected] P: 631-664-1311
Celebrating the leaders of The Deal Economy: The Deal will recognize the leading lawyers, bankers, investors and advisers in middle-market transactions at Bryant Park Grill. Join us as we celebrate the people and firms who are setting the trends.
The Corporate Governance Conference explores the evolving relationship between companies, activists, institutional investors and shareholders and what’s really going on in the boardroom while managing companies to maximize shareholder value.