For the past several years Cleary Gottlieb has published legal and practical information regarding German public M&A transactions.  For the new edition of the compilation Public Bids and Squeeze-Outs in Germany, a Statistical Survey (2002 – 2016), we have collected and analyzed information related to public bids and squeeze-outs in Germany from January 2002 through December 2016.
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U.S. and European companies continue to receive bids to sell themselves and their significant assets to companies based in the People’s Republic of China.  Evaluation of these proposals requires due diligence of the acquiror’s ownership structure, assets, cash position, and financing sources.  Moreover, even if this due diligence exercise gives rise to satisfactory results, the continued unpredictability of the PRC government (including its recently enhanced foreign exchange control measures), coupled with the ties of some of these buyers and financing sources to governmental entities in the PRC, as well as the challenges that a non-PRC counterparty faces when seeking to enforce contractual obligations and non-PRC judgments in PRC courts, merit the implementation of an array of innovative provisions in M&A Agreements to protect the seller/target.  Several months ago, we reviewed these provisions in a popular post.  This new post updates that earlier post to reflect recent regulatory developments and the evolution of market practice.
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Investors frequently negotiate for a redemption right to ensure at least some return on preferred stock investments in a “sideways situation”—where the target company is neither a huge success nor an abject failure.  Continuing a consistent theme in recent Delaware jurisprudence, the Delaware Court of Chancery declined to dismiss a complaint alleging directors breached their duty of loyalty in taking steps to satisfy an investor’s redemption request.

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When a corporation sells corporate assets to its (or an affiliate of its) controlling stockholder, Delaware courts generally will review that transaction under the exacting “entire fairness” standard.[1]  But what if the corporation’s minority stockholders are given the opportunity to participate along with the controlling stockholder in the purchase of the corporate assets pro rata to the extent of their stock ownership?
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The Delaware Supreme Court has affirmed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s ruling that Energy Transfer Equity L.P. (“ETE”) did not breach its agreement to merge with The Williams Companies, Inc. when ETE terminated the agreement on the grounds that its counsel was unwilling to deliver a tax opinion that was a condition to closing.

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Several amendments were made to Section 251(h) of the Delaware General Corporation Law that became effective for merger agreements entered into on or after August 1, 2016.  Section 251(h) permits acquisitions of publicly listed Delaware corporations to be accomplished via a tender offer without the need to approve the second-step “squeeze-out” merger at a stockholder meeting if certain conditions are met, including that the acquiror of the tendered shares and its affiliates would be able to unilaterally approve the second-step merger if a meeting were to be held.
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Appraisal rights in public M&A transactions have recently garnered greater attention, particularly in Delaware.  As a result, more attention is being paid to the possible inclusion of a closing condition protecting the acquiror against excessive use of appraisal rights, and this should lead to careful attention being paid to the negotiation and drafting of any such conditions and related provisions.  Discussed below are some of the reasons for this greater attention, and suggestions regarding negotiating and drafting such provisions.
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Shareholder activists, and the institutional investors who are increasingly supporting them, continue to press public company boards to take bold steps to unlock the value contained in their various businesses.  While some companies may have assets or business lines ripe for divestiture or spin off, targets of shareholder activism are often resistant to the clarion call to the “pure play” evolution process – and for good reason.  For many companies, in particular in the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) space, maintaining diverse business lines can serve a strategic purpose despite different growth trajectories, profitability and trading multiples.  Furthermore, the spin-off/divestiture route may pose other challenges – such as the embryonic nature of a new division, the absence of sufficiently developed operations to be a full-fledged standalone company, adverse tax consequences of a separation or a desire to maintain control – which make a spin-off or divestiture undesirable or untimely.
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