Refocus Not ResetActivist Insight: France has seen a rare activist victory, after a group of dissident shareholders led by Xavier Niel won a shareholder vote against a capital raise at mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. 13 November 2020
Iuri Struta of Activist Insight (a Insightia company) covered the ‘Refocus Not Reset’ campaign at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (“URW”), which SquareWell was part of the working group to support the Consortium of investors. Iuri Struta noted that the significance of this historic win cannot be overstated. According to Activist Insight Online data, not one of the 17 demands for board representation that went to vote since 2015 in the country resulted in board seats for the activist…that is until now.
On November 10 2020, URW said between 59% and 63% of the shares voted to elect dissident candidates Léon Bressler, Xavier Niel, and Susana Gallardo. Making the Company’s “defeat even more painful, the 3.5 billion euro capital raise did not receive the required two-thirds majority, delivering a strong rebuke to management’s strategy”.
Speaking about the campaign, Louis Barbier, Partner at SquareWell, noted that “the consortium appreciated the different sensitivities of each shareholder constituency”. Louis Barbier concluded by stating that “the benefits of adding fresh perspectives to the board resonated with traditional investors while active managers already had strong views on the rights issue.”
Indeed, Dutch-based pension fund APG Asset Management, the owner of 5% of the stock, voted for the election of dissidents to the board and against the capital raise. Norway’s pension fund, which owns 4%, voted for the rights issue but backed the investors’ slate. According to Proxy Insight, APG voted for dissidents in 33% of the 61 proxy contests covered, while Norway pension fund in 20% of the 141 proxy fights.
You can access the full article here (subscription required).
Activist investors are expected to launch more and bolder campaigns for change among European companies in the year ahead, advisers told Reuters, after a record number in 2023.
AQTION, a subsidiary of SquareWell Partners, published its inaugural study – ‘Stewardship in AQTION’ – which details how the world’s largest 65 asset managers and owners steward their portfolio companies and how they incorporate extra-financial considerations into their investment decision-making processes.
Carl Icahn is preparing for a second board battle at gene-sequencing company Illumina after shareholders elected his candidate, Andrew Teno, to the company’s board and ousted the chairman, John Thompson, in May. Icahn then successfully pushed out former CEO Frances DeSouza in June.