Shareholder Activists Remain Busy as Regional Issues Are Affecting Campaigns

Activist investors’ appetite for targeting companies for long-term change, or a quick payout, remained strong in the second quarter, which recorded the second highest activity in the last five quarters, trailing only 2022’s first quarter tally.

Globally, the fifty-three campaigns was a 27% drop from the first quarter. Lazard (US:LAZ) said the first and second quarter changes this year are a pattern over the last few years.

In the US, new campaign launches cratered 50%, to 22. Europe was a bright spot, and activists launched 33% more campaigns than in the first quarter.

Lazard said that technology companies accounted for 25% of second quarter activist targets, above the first quarter’s 21% and well above a 14% multiyear average. Software, Services, and Internet were the most active subsectors.

“Primary activist objectives in technology campaigns are in line with key themes across other sectors, with M&A, strategy and capital allocation dominating the narrative,” the firm said.

There are more activists launching campaigns too. Lazard attributed 73% of all new activist activity in 2022’s first half to first time activists. It said that was the highest level in recent years.

According to the report, that new blood is changing the way the pie’s been typically divided by activists. It said the top five activists accounted for 19% of the total, below the concentration levels of the last five years.

“The first half’s top activists feature a broad range of investor types including established global players Elliott Management and Carl Icahn, regionally, Amber, and sector specialist focused Land & Buildings, and increasingly active ESG specialists Impactive Capital and Inclusive Capital Partners and occasional activists D.E. Shaw, Lazard said.

As mentioned above, activists markedly accelerated their attacks in Europe, launching a record 35 campaigns, up 67% for 2021’s first half.

“The impact of macroeconomic events was felt differently in Europe, translating into varied levels of activism across the continent. French campaigns were significantly overrepresented, about 20%, as some of the largest companies were in the crosshairs,”Lazard reported. German campaigns represented 6%, less than half of the country’s traditional contribution.

That same macroeconomic volatility and investors’ subsequent changed risk perceptions also showed through campaign goals.

Lazard said there were seven “sell the company” demands in the second quarter and 16 for the first half. By comparison, Activists called for a sale 20 times in all 2021 and 14 times in 2020. Lazard said more activists see their targets as failed stands alone firms and want them sold, rewarding shareholders.

Lazard said, “As the economic outlook deteriorated through Q2, there were increased focus on strategy and operations (21% of campaigns in Q2 vs. 14% in Q1) and capital allocation policies (17% of campaigns in Q2 vs. 10% in Q1).”

But the activists are realists too. The report from the second quarter showed that a historically high 91% of the 75 seats won during the second quarter were filled via settlement agreements and not costly proxy fights for both sides.

The second quarter saw only two proxy fights that went to a vote. The first half total was 9, which Lazard said is similar to recent historical levels.

This article originally appeared on Fintel

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