In business, a takeover is the purchase of one company (the target) by another (the acquirer, or bidder). The term refers to the acquisition of a public company whose shares are listed on a stock exchange, in contrast to the acquisition of a private company.
Like White knights in business, a “friendly takeover” is an acquisition which is approved by the management. Before a bidder makes an offer for another company, it usually first informs the company’s board of directors. In an ideal world, if the board feels that accepting the offer serves the shareholders better than rejecting it, it recommends the offer be accepted by the shareholders.
In a private company, because the shareholders and the board are usually the same people or closely connected with one another, private acquisitions are usually friendly. If the shareholders agree to sell the company, then the board is usually of the same mind or sufficiently under the orders of the equity shareholders to cooperate with the bidder. This point is not relevant to the concept of takeovers, which always involve the acquisition of a public company.
A “hostile takeover” allows a bidder to take over a target company whose management is unwilling to agree to a merger or takeover. A takeover is considered “hostile” if the target company’s board rejects the offer, and if the bidder continues to pursue it, or the bidder makes the offer directly after having announced its firm intention to make an offer.
A hostile takeover can be conducted in several ways. A tender offer can be made where the acquiring company makes a public offer at a fixed price above the current market price. Tender offers in the United States are regulated by the Williams Act. An acquiring company can also engage in a proxy fight, whereby it tries to persuade enough shareholders, usually a simple majority, to replace the management with a new one which will approve the takeover. Another method involves quietly purchasing enough stock on the open market, known as a “creeping tender offer”, to effect a change in management. In all of these ways, management resists the acquisition, but it is carried out anyway.
In the United States, a common defense tactic against hostile takeovers is to use section 16 of the Clayton Act to seek an injunction, arguing that section 7 of the act would be violated if the offeror acquired the target’s stock.
The main consequence of a bid being considered hostile is practical rather than legal. If the board of the target cooperates, the bidder can conduct extensive due diligence into the affairs of the target company, providing the bidder with a comprehensive analysis of the target company’s finances. In contrast, a hostile bidder will only have more limited, publicly available information about the target company available, rendering the bidder vulnerable to hidden risks regarding the target company’s finances. An additional problem is that takeovers often require loans provided by banks in order to service the offer, but banks are often less willing to back a hostile bidder because of the relative lack of target information which is available to them.
A “reverse takeover” is a type of takeover where a private company acquires a public company. This is usually done at the instigation of the larger, private company, the purpose being for the private company to effectively float itself while avoiding some of the expense and time involved in a conventional IPO.
An individual or organization, sometimes known as a corporate raider, can purchase a large fraction of the company’s stock and, in doing so, get enough votes to replace the board of directors and the CEO. With a new agreeable management team, the stock is a much more attractive investment, which would likely result in a price rise and a profit for the corporate raider and the other shareholders.
A “backflip takeover” is any sort of takeover in which the acquiring company turns itself into a subsidiary of the purchased company. This type of takeover can occur when a larger but less well-known company purchases a struggling company with a very well-known brand. Examples include:
The Texas Air Corporation takeover of Continental Airlines but taking the Continental name as it was better known.
The SBC takeover of the ailing AT&T and subsequent rename to AT&T.
Westinghouse’s 1995 purchase of CBS and 1997 renaming to CBS Corporation, with Westinghouse becoming a brand name owned by the company.
NationsBank’s takeover of the Bank of America, but adopting Bank of America’s name.
Interceptor Entertainment’s acquisition of 3D Realms, but kept dba 3D Realms
Financing a takeover
Often a company acquiring another pays a specified amount for it. This money can be raised in a number of ways. Although the company may have sufficient funds available in its account, remitting payment entirely from the acquiring company’s cash on hand is unusual. More often, it will be borrowed from a bank, or raised by an issue of bonds. Acquisitions financed through debt are known as leveraged buyouts, and the debt will often be moved down onto the balance sheet of the acquired company. The acquired company then has to pay back the debt. This is a technique often used by private equity companies. The debt ratio of financing can go as high as 80% in some cases. In such a case, the acquiring company would only need to raise 20% of the purchase price.
Loan note alternatives
Cash offers for public companies often include a “loan note alternative” that allows shareholders to take a part or all of their consideration in loan notes rather than cash. This is done primarily to make the offer more attractive in terms of taxation. A conversion of shares into cash is counted as a disposal that triggers a payment of capital gains tax, whereas if the shares are converted into other securities, such as loan notes, the tax is rolled over.
All share deals
A takeover, particularly a reverse takeover, may be financed by an all share deal. The bidder does not pay money, but instead issues new shares in itself to the shareholders of the company being acquired. In a reverse takeover the shareholders of the company being acquired end up with a majority of the shares in, and so control of, the company making the bid. The company has managerial rights.
If a takeover of a company consists of simply an offer of an amount of money per share, (as opposed to all or part of the payment being in shares or loan notes) then this is an all-cash deal. This does not define how the purchasing company sources the cash- that can be from existing cash resources; loans; or a separate issue of shares.
Using a Lawyer
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