Tag: Spinoffs


Court of Chancery Upholds Customary Release in Spin-Off Transactions

David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Katz, William Savitt, and Ryan A. McLeod. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Court of Chancery last week validated a release of liability that extinguished certain claims a recently spun-off company may have had against its former parent and its directors. In re AbbVie Inc. Stockholder Derivative Litig., C.A. No. 9983-VCG (Del. Ch. July 21, 2015). The decision confirms that the mutual releases customary in spin-off arrangements are presumptively appropriate and enforceable.

Abbott Laboratories spun off AbbVie, its research-based pharmaceutical subsidiary, in January 2013. Before the spin, Abbott was a defendant in a False Claims Act action alleging unlawful off-label marketing of an AbbVie product. As part of the spin-off, AbbVie broadly released all claims it might have against Abbott or any Abbott affiliate relating to assets transferred to AbbVie, including liability for the False Claims Act claim.

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Binding Spincos to Parent Obligations Requires Specificity

Matt Salerno is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Mr. Salerno, Christopher Condlin, and Christina Prassas. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Miramar Police Officers’ Retirement Plan v. Murdoch [1] the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed plaintiff’s claims, refusing to hold that an “unambiguous” boilerplate successors and assigns clause operated to bind a spun-off company to the terms of a contract entered into by its former parent company. The contract at issue generally restricted the former parent company from adopting a poison pill with a term of longer than one year without obtaining shareholder approval. The decision will serve as a reminder to practitioners to carefully consider the impact that significant corporate transactions could have on their clients’ contractual rights and obligations.

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2015 Spin-Off Guide

Gregory E. Ostling is a partner in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on the introduction to a Wachtell Lipton memorandum; the complete publication, including annexes, is available here.

A spin-off involves the separation of a company’s businesses through the creation of one or more separate, publicly traded companies. Spin-offs have been popular because many investors, boards and managers believe that certain businesses may command higher valuations if owned and managed separately, rather than as part of the same enterprise. An added benefit is that a spin-off can often be accomplished in a manner that is tax-free to both the existing public company (referred to as the parent) and its shareholders. Moreover, robust debt markets have enabled companies to lock in low borrowing costs for the business being separated and monetize a portion of its value. For example, in connection with its $55 billion spin-off from Abbott Laboratories in 2012, AbbVie conducted a $14.7 billion bond offering, which at the time was the largest ever investment- grade corporate bond deal in the United States, at a weighted average interest rate of approximately two percent. Other notable recent spin-offs include Penn National Gaming’s spin-off of its real estate assets into the first-ever casino REIT, Rayonier’s spin-off of its performance fibers division, Energizer Holdings’ planned spin-off of its personal care business, Gannett’s planned spin-off of its publishing business, DuPont’s planned spin-off of its performance chemicals business, Yahoo!’s planned spin-off of its stake in Alibaba, eBay’s planned spin- off of PayPal, HP’s planned separation of its PC and printer business and its enterprise business and W.R. Grace’s planned separation of its construction and packaging business and its catalyst and materials technologies business. There were 204 spin-offs announced in 2014 and 201 in 2013.

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More Corporate Actions, More Insider Trading?

The following post comes to us from Patrick Augustin of the Finance Area at McGill University; Jianfeng Hu of the Finance Area at Singapore Management University; and Menachem Brenner and Marti Subrahmanyam, both of the Finance Department at New York University.

According to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York, insider trading is “rampant” in U.S. securities markets, and his actions in the past few years indicate concrete action by his office to combat such activity. In a similar vein, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stepped up efforts to chase down high profile insider traders, and has made it its key priority in pursuing errant behavior. Academic studies, including our own, have previously documented empirical evidence of informed trading ahead of major corporate events such as earnings announcements, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate bankruptcies.

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Governance Issues in Spin-Off Transactions

The following post comes to us from Stephen I. Glover, Partner and Co-Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn M&A Report by Mr. Glover, Elizabeth Ising, Lori Zyskowski, and Alisa Babitz. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Spin-off transactions require a focused, intensive planning effort. The deal team must make decisions about how best to allocate businesses, assets and liabilities between the parent and the subsidiary that will be spun-off. It must address complex tax issues, securities law questions and accounting matters, as well as issues related to capital structure, financing and personnel matters. In addition, it must resolve a long list of governance issues, including questions about the composition of the spin-off company board, the importance of mechanisms for dealing with conflicts of interest and the desirability of robust takeover defenses.

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Using Spin-offs to Raise Cash, Reduce Debt and Recapitalize

The following post comes to us from Stephen I. Glover, Partner and Co-Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn M&A Report.

Spin-offs continue to be a prominent feature of the deal landscape; new transactions are announced on an almost weekly basis. For example, Barnes & Noble recently said that it plans to spin off its Nook business, eBay said that it would spin off PayPal, and Hewlett Packard announced that it would spin off its printer and computer business. A total of approximately 51 separation transactions have been announced so far this year. The tally was not quite as high in 2013, but still robust; approximately 42 transactions were announced.

When market analysts seek to explain this apparently never-ending stream of separation transactions, they reason that the stock market rewards pure-play companies focused on a single line of business with higher stock prices than conglomerates. They also observe that activists have added momentum to the transaction flow by encouraging companies that operate several lines of business to consider separation opportunities. In addition, they observe that separation transactions can result in improved management focus, enable the implementation of more efficient capital structures and compensation programs, and result in the creation of a new equity currency.

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Spin-Off Guide

The following post comes to us from Gregory E. Ostling, partner in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on the introduction to a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Ostling, Deborah L. Paul, Nelson O. Fitts, and Jeremy L. Goldstein; the complete publication, including annexes, is available here.

A spin-off involves the separation of a company’s businesses through the creation of one or more separate, publicly traded companies. Spin-offs have been popular because many investors, boards and managers believe that certain businesses may command higher valuations if owned and managed separately, rather than as part of the same enterprise. An added benefit is that a spin-off can often be accomplished in a manner that is tax-free to both the existing public company (referred to as the parent) and its shareholders. Moreover, recently, robust debt markets have enabled companies to lock in low borrowing costs for the business being separated and monetize a portion of its value. For example, in connection with its $55 billion spin-off from Abbott Laboratories in 2012, AbbVie conducted a $14.7 billion bond offering, which at the time was the largest ever investment-grade corporate bond deal in the United States, at a weighted average interest rate of approximately two percent. Other notable recent spin-offs include ConocoPhillips’ spin-off of its refining and marketing business, Penn National Gaming’s spin-off of its real estate assets into the first-ever casino REIT, Sears Holding Corporation’s planned spin-off of Lands’ End, FMC’s planned spin-off of its minerals division, Rayonier’s planned spin-off of its performance fibers division, Simon Property’s spin-off of its strip center business and smaller enclosed malls into a REIT, and Darden’s planned spin-off of Red Lobster. There were 201 spin-offs announced in 2013 and 176 in 2012, with an aggregate value of $33 billion and $41 billion, respectively.

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Spin-Off and Listing by Introduction of Feishang Anthracite Resources Limited

The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by William Y. Chua, Kung-Wei Liu, and Kenny Chiu.

China Natural Resources, Inc. (“CHNR”), a natural resources company based in the People’s Republic of China (the “PRC”) with shares listed on the NASDAQ Capital Market, recently completed the spin-off (the “Spin-Off”) and listing by introduction (the “Listing by Introduction”) on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the “Hong Kong Stock Exchange”) of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Feishang Anthracite Resources Limited (“Feishang Anthracite”), which operated CHNR’s coal mining and related businesses prior to the Spin-Off. [1] S&C represented CHNR and Feishang Anthracite in connection with the Spin-Off and Listing by Introduction, which is the first-of-its-kind where a U.S.-listed company successfully spun off and listed shares of its businesses on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, including advising on the U.S. and Hong Kong legal issues that arose in connection with this transaction.

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Structural Corporate Degradation Due to Too-Big-To-Fail Finance

Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law.

Corporate governance incentives at too-big-to-fail financial firms deserve systematic examination. For industrial conglomerates that have grown too large, internal and external corporate structural pressures push to re-size the firm. External activists press it to restructure to raise its stock market value. Inside the firm, boards and managers see that the too-big firm can be more efficient and more profitable if restructured via spin-offs and sales. But for large, too-big-to-fail financial firms (1) if the value captured by being too-big-to-fail lowers the firms’ financing costs enough and (2) if a resized firm or the spun-off entities would lose that funding benefit, then a major constraint on industrial firm over-expansion breaks down for too-big-to-fail finance.

Propositions (1) and (2) have both been true and, consequently, a major retardant to industrial firm over-expansion has been missing in the large financial firm. Debt cost savings from the implicit subsidy can amount to a good fraction of the big firms’ profits. Directors contemplating spin-offs at a too-big-to-fail financial firm accordingly face the problem that the spun-off, smaller firms would lose access to cheaper too-big-to-fail funding. Hence, they will be relatively more reluctant to push for break-up, for spin-offs, or for slowing expansion. They would get a better managed group of financial firms if their restructuring succeeded, but would lose the too-big-to-fail subsidy embedded in any lowered funding costs. Subtly but pervasively, internal corporate counterpressures that resist excessive bulk, size, and growth degrade.

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Matching Directors with Firms

The following post comes to us from David Denis, Professor of Finance at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh; Diane Denis, Professor of Finance at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh; and Mark Walker, Associate Professor of Finance at the Poole College of Management, North Carolina State University.

Although the structure of the board of directors has been the topic of considerable debate and academic research over the past two decades, much of this prior literature focuses on aggregate measures of board composition such as board size or the fraction of independent outside directors. More recent studies recognize that directors with differing backgrounds and expertise are likely to bring different sources of value to the board. However, empirical studies of the importance of these attributes are limited by the ‘stickiness’ of board structures. Specifically, transactions costs associated with board structure adjustments can result in board structures that evolve only very slowly. As a result, observing board structures and their determinants at any given point in time can provide a misleading picture of how boards are formed; most notably, how and why particular individual directors are matched with the specific set of assets that they help govern.

In our paper, Matching Directors with Firms: Evidence from Board Structure Following Corporate Spinoffs, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we aim to overcome some of these limitations by analyzing board structure following corporate spinoffs. As part of the spinoff, a board of directors must be created from scratch for the spun off unit. This ‘de novo’ feature provides a unique opportunity to observe boards that are unlikely to be affected by the factors that contribute to the ‘stickiness’ of ongoing boards. In addition, the separation of one publicly traded firm into two publicly-traded firms leads to large discrete differences in asset and operating structure and significant variation in CEO identity and origin. This allows us to examine both the formation of new boards by the spun off units and the changes in parent board structure occasioned by a significant operational restructuring. Perhaps more importantly, our experimental design allows us to link specific assets with specific directors, thereby providing unique evidence on how directors are matched with the assets they govern. Similarly, by tracking the movement of individual CEOs and individual directors, our data can enhance our understanding of the extent to which individual directors are matched with specific CEOs.

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