I remain fascinated by this Carl Icahn – CVR Energy situation and wanted to add two curlicues to my conspiracy theory for why he dropped his bid.
First: while it’s fun to think that he may be unable to pay above $30 for a CVR merger due to let’s say imperfections in his tender offer documentation, there’s another, more broadly applicable, reason not to go above $30. That is: Carl Icahn is a repeat player. He bids for companies sometimes. And if you make a habit of (1) buying 80% of a company in a tender offer for $30 and (2) buying the remaining 20% in a merger a few months later for $31, then you may find it harder to get anyone to tender in your tender offer. Why not hold out for more?, they think, plausibly.
Thus it’s actually a very good idea for Icahn to be a raging asshole to the remaining 20% stub:* the worse he treats them, the more likely the shareholders of his next target are to tender. The holdouts in this deal gambled and lost and are now holding an illiquid stub that they may well end up selling to him on the open market for less than his tender price. Any potential holdouts in his next deal should be quaking in their hypothetical boots.
This only goes so far, though, because the more of a raging asshole you are, the more boards can do to keep you out of the next deal. A guy well known as a defender of shareholder rights against entrenched management tends to be able to put a lot more PR – and legal – pressure on boards than a guy well known for taking advantage of minority shareholders. And Delaware courts at least pay lip service to the idea that boards have more leeway to keep out – via poison pills, etc. – raiders who “coerce” shareholders than those who don’t (see, e.g., etc.).
Carl Icahn’s strangely halfhearted takeover of CVR Energy got even stranger and more halfhearted last night: after acquiring an 82% stake at $30 in a tender offer, and suggesting to the board that they think about selling him the rest of the company at $29, he withdrew that suggestion last night. He gets sort of a sad trombone for this letter:
At the time we made our original offer on August 6th to take CVR Energy private, we stated that we were willing to pay $29.00 per share but in no event would we consider paying more than $30 per share. Since then a number of market conditions have changed, including a significant widening of crack spreads. We no longer think that the proposed transaction is feasible at this time and we hereby withdraw it.
Some background is here.** So this is a neat letter because it sort of sounds like “we no longer think CVR is worth that price” but it surely means “we are not willing to pay the higher price that CVR is now worth and likely to demand” – doesn’t it? Here are CVR’s comps since August 6th:***
Wider crack spreads + the sector trading up = if CVR was worth $29 two weeks ago it’s worth, what, $31 today?**** Or, I mean, you can imagine CVR’s board saying so: “if you were willing to pay $29 two weeks ago why not pay $31 today?” – but it’s weird for Icahn to negotiate himself right out of the deal.
If you were Best Buy founder Richard Schulze, how much would you pay to acquire the shares of Best Buy that you don’t already own? $24 a share? $26? $30? Surely it’d get too expensive for you above $30 or so?*
Nope! The more expensive it is for him the more money he saves, or rather gets, because he is not offering to buy Best Buy, but to sell it. From the Journal:
In his letter to the board, Mr. Schulze said he would finance the transaction through a combination of investments from private-equity firms, his equity investment of approximately $1 billion, and debt. His adviser, Credit Suisse, is “highly confident” Mr. Schulze could arrange the necessary debt financing, according to his statement.
Because Mr. Schulze’s holding of 68.9 million shares would be worth at least $1.65 billion, his proposal indicates he would divest himself of some of his personal stake as part of a transaction.
I had trouble believing this – perhaps he rounds down unconventionally, or he meant he was kicking in an extra $1bn in cash for the equity check? – but it seems to be true. Schulze’s press release says that “he plans to finance the proposed acquisition through a combination of investments from the private equity firms, reinvestment of approximately $1 billion of his own equity, and debt financing,” which sure does sound like he’s kicking in some but not all of his shares. If so, the higher the price, the better of Schulze is: at $24, he can have his billion-dollar stake while cashing out $650mm, at $26 he gets $790mm, and at $30 he takes out over a billion dollars. He is perhaps more diluted in the new company at these levels – and/or the newco is more leveraged – but … um … that’s usually what happens when someone gives you money in exchange for stock, isn’t it? Read more »
Carl Icahn says he isn’t paying a bill from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., on principle. … “These guys were hired to keep me from buying the company at $30 and they failed,” Mr. Icahn said in an interview. “But they are now demanding $18 million for having done nothing.”
Goldman’s suit says the bank “fully performed all of its obligations.”
This is about Goldman’s lawsuit against Icahn-controlled CVR Energy, which has refused to pay Goldman’s bill, and both of these statements are obviously true! CVR and Goldman signed an engagement letter to the effect of (1) Goldman will hold CVR’s collective hand because it is scared of Carl Icahn and in exchange (2) CVR will pay Goldman 0.525% of the purchase price if someone buys it (and also some money if no one does*). Hands were held, so Goldman fulfilled its end of the bargain. Icahn does not think that that was worth eighteen million dollars but it wasn’t him trembling in the night as corporate raiders circled outside his door, so he wouldn’t would he? Read more »
Sell-side M&A work is mostly a pretty good and lucrative business model but it has a few flaws. Try to spot a key one here:
(1) you represent a target;
(2) you spend your days fighting tooth and nail with the buyer to try to make them pay more and give up optionality, and generally to get more of the benefits of the deal for the target than for the buyer;
(3) then the buyer acquires the target, fires all the directors and officers, changes the locks, and replaces the stationery;
(4) then you get paid.
One of the more fertile areas of academic finance is explaining why M&A is so bad – mergers seem to be on average value destructive, so why do they keep happening? Are CEOs just stupid? Are bankers just evil and persuasive? Here’s one answer that may be worth considering, which is that it looks like a good idea to acquire a successful company run by a talented and dedicated founder-CEO, but then things go pear-shaped because that founder-CEO either (1) departs, voluntarily or otherwise, with his giant bags of loot, or (2) suddenly loses interest in running his or her company when it’s owned by someone else and that someone else is now the founder-CEO’s boss:
Bidder gains are lower for acquisitions that involve targets with a founder CEO than for acquisitions of targets without a founder. The difference in bidder gains between takeovers of targets with founder CEOs and those without a founder is statistically significant, economically material, and robust to several model specifications that include a wide variety of deal- and firm-level control variables, like form of payment, competition, relative size, as well as some characteristics of the target CEO, such as his cash flow and voting stakes, age, and tenure.
That’s from this paper by Nandu J. Nagarajan, Frederik P. Schlingemann, Marieke van der Poel and Mehmet F. Yalin. It doesn’t clear up the whole mystery – non-founder mergers have also destroyed some value here and there, though I guess statistically less so – but I found it kind of fun. Read more »
If you want to buy a company you can do it in one of two ways: you can negotiate a merger with the board, put it to a shareholder vote, and if you get above 50% then all the other shareholders are basically forced into the deal and you pay the merger price. Or you can buy shares, typically in a tender offer, and if you get above 50% then you … sort of own the company. But not exactly, because there are still other people who own 49%. And, generally speaking, those other people don’t like you.
Today some of those other people are suing Carl Icahn because (1) he owns about 80% of independent refiner CVR Energy, (2) they own about 20%, and (3) he is being kind of mean to them. Specifically, after tendering for the company and buying most of the shares at $30, he’s been taking advantage of the fact that no one really wants to be a minority shareholder in a controlled company by buying more shares at around $27.50.*
Some of those minority shareholders want to stop him doing this, claiming that “Once any genuinely independent board of directors learned of Icahn’s scheme, such a board would have adopted a poison pill to stop Icahn from making any more open market purchases unless and until the Board was able to negotiate a cash-out merger that provided the Company’s remaining shareholders with fair value.” And so they’re suing to force Icahn’s board to adopt a poison pill and prevent him from buying at market prices. That is strange: Read more »