Shareholder activism is on the rise in Australia. As covered in our report analysing activist investing trends and insights in the Australian context (here), in the past four years, activists have targeted 50 Australian listed companies.
The Australian business media continues to cover stories of under-performing boards being put under intense pressure by increasingly savvy activists. Boards that are not anticipating and preparing for activist activity are ignoring the legal and structural reasons why the Australian market is so conducive to it.
To find out more about the rise of shareholder activism in Australia, see below:
ABL has launched a page dedicated to shareholder activism on our website - you can check it out here. We are very interested in your recent experience and views on shareholder activism in Australia. Please contact us directly to share your views.
Recent high profile activist campaigns
Our lawyers are experienced in advising both activist investors and non-executive directors of ASX 200 companies in responding to activist demands. Below is a snapshot of the key matters we have been involved in over the past year.
Lew turns up the heat on Myer
Legendary Australian retail billionaire Solomon Lew has reserved the right to call an extraordinary general meeting as Premier Investments’ stoush with department store Myer continues. Lew is disappointed by Myer’s sales performance and critical of the Board’s response to structural changes within the Australian retail sector. ABL is advising Premier Investments Limited.
Read more below:
Singaporean activists - MMA Offshore
Together with Moelis & Company's Chris Wyke, Partners Leon Zwier and Jeremy Leibler have been advising dissident shareholder, Halom Investments, on its campaign to remove MMA Offshore chairman Tony Howarth and chief executive Jeff Weber. An 11th hour capital raising launched by the chairman and chief executive diluted the Singaporean activist’s holding in the company from 18.1 per cent to a bit below 8 per cent. Despite ABL launching a successful Takeovers Panel application, the dilution was allowed to stand which ensured Halom’s proposals were defeated at the company’s AGM in December 2017.
Former CEO reinstated following EGM vote
Shareholders voted to reinstate former Praemium CEO, Michael Ohanessian, following an extraordinary general meeting. Jeremy Leibler acted for Mr Ohanessian following his sudden removal by the board in February this year.
Questioning the role of proxy advisers
Shareholder activism lead partner Jeremy Leibler has been a vocal critic of the proxy advisory sector, arguing that proxy advisers should be subjected to the same scrutiny as other ASIC-supervised advisers working in the financial markets. A recent survey of 52 ASX-listed companies by the Australasian Investor Relations Association found 38 errors made in proxy reports, with only two of those errors being corrected.
Proxy advisers undoubtedly play an important role in the market. If regulated effectively, Jeremy Leibler argues that they would be better placed to provide sound, accurate, tailored and independent advice that institutional shareholders could reasonably rely on when making significant voting decisions. Under resourcing means they are often stretched too thin to provide an appropriate calibre of advice and engagement to the detriment of the entire market.
Read more below: