The ECJ in “Estro/Smallstep” on the Dutch pre-pack in relation to article 5(1) of Directive 2001/23

A red flag for the pre-pack as we know it?

In its preliminary ruling of today, the ECJ has decided that the Dutch pre-pack does not come under the derogation in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/23. The reasoning of the ECJ will have important consequences for the pre-pack-practice and (draft) legislation in all European Member States, including Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Background: Project Butterfly

In November 2013, Estro Groep BV (with 380 establishments and 3.600 employees the largest childcare company in the Netherlands) entered into financial distress. Since plan A, i.e. consulting its lenders and principal shareholders in order to obtain further financing, was unsuccessful, “Project Butterfly” came into force. Under Project Butterfly, a significant part of Estro Group would be transferred pursuant to a pre-pack: 243 centers out of 380 would be saved and 2.500 employees out of 3.600 would keep their job. Continue reading “The ECJ in “Estro/Smallstep” on the Dutch pre-pack in relation to article 5(1) of Directive 2001/23”

The US Sunnyslope–case: a slippery slope for creditors?

Valuation in cramdown procedures: creditors be damned?

The facts of the case

The debtor, Sunnyslope Housing Limited Partnership (“Sunnyslope”), developed and operated an apartment complex intended to provide affordable housing. When Sunnyslope defaulted on the senior loan for the project, the Department of Housing and Urban Development honored its guarantee, acquired the senior loan from the original private lender, and resold it to First Southern National Bank. First Southern started the foreclosure process, which would have wiped out affordable housing restrictive covenants related to additional financing. The debtor then was put into bankruptcy, and it exercised the cramdown option of 11 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(5)(B) and elected to retain the property in exchange for a new payment plan that would require it to pay First Southern an amount equal to the present value of the secured claim at the time of bankruptcy.

Sunnyslope argued that the value of First Southern’s secured interest should be calculated with the affordable housing restrictions remaining in place. Continue reading “The US Sunnyslope–case: a slippery slope for creditors?”

Akzo Nobel: Activist Shareholders Hit Wall of Dutch Stakeholder Model

An analysis by Tom Vos & Thom Wetzer

An attempt at courtship has ended up in court. Over the past months, US paints and coatings giant PPG Industries (‘PPG’) has tried to woe the management and shareholders of Dutch rival Akzo Nobel (‘Akzo’) with friendly takeover offers. It has been rewarded by a consistently aloof response from Akzo’s boards, and especially its Chairman Antony Burgmans, who has so far refused to enter talks. On May 29, the Enterprise Chamber of Amsterdam (a Dutch commercial court) rejected efforts by some of Akzo’s shareholders, led by activist investor Elliott Management Corp. (‘Elliott’), to force a shareholder vote intended to oust Mr. Burgmans.

The case comes at a critical time in what has become an increasingly bitter exchange. Akzo has so far rejected three unsolicited friendly offers from PPG, arguing that they undervalue the company, do not make any serious commitments to its stakeholders, demonstrate a cultural lack of understanding, and entail significant risks and uncertainties (including lengthy reviews by the EU’s competition authority). Continue reading “Akzo Nobel: Activist Shareholders Hit Wall of Dutch Stakeholder Model”

EU company law: public consultation on rules on digital solutions and efficient cross-border operations

The European Commission recently opened a public consultation to collect input from stakeholders on problems in company law, gather evidence of such problems and ask their views on possible solutions on how to address the problems at EU level. The consultation focuses on the use of online tools throughout the companies’ lifecycle, the cross-border mobility of companies (again) and (the need for) conflict-of-law rules for companies (a recent study on the law applicable to companies, can be consulted here). Continue reading “EU company law: public consultation on rules on digital solutions and efficient cross-border operations”

Polbud: Cartesio ontmoet de werkelijke zetel?

AG Kokott vereist “werkelijke vestiging” voor toepassing vrijheid van vestiging op grensoverschrijdende omzetting

In haar advies in zaak C-106/16 (Polbud) preciseert Advocaat-Generaal Kokott de toepassing van de vrijheid van vestiging op de grensoverschrijdende omzetting. In het arrest-Cartesio heeft het Hof overwogen dat een lidstaat niet immuun is voor de toets aan de vrijheid van vestiging, wanneer die een vennootschap belet zich om te zetten naar het recht van een andere lidstaat, door haar ontbinding en vereffening te vereisen. De AG is nu van oordeel dat de verplaatsing van de statutaire zetel naar een andere lidstaat enkel onder  de vrijheid van vestiging valt indien de betrokken vennootschap een “werkelijke vestiging” in de andere lidstaat heeft of beoogt “met het oog op de daadwerkelijke uitoefening van een economische activiteit” . De AG lijkt dus een soort werkelijke-zetelmechanisme aan Cartesio te willen toevoegen. Continue reading “Polbud: Cartesio ontmoet de werkelijke zetel?”

“Nee is nee” – lessen uit de zaak Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG)

Concurrerende bieder bij een bod door de controlerende aandeelhouder

Afgelopen dinsdagavond deed de Ondernemingskamer te Amsterdam een uitspraak in de zaak rond de overname van Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG) door Mediahuis en de familie Van Puijenbroek (samen het “consortium”). Kort gezegd wees de rechter de voorziening van concurrerende bieder Talpa af, zodat de weg voor een overname door het consortium nu open ligt.

Deze beslissing is één van de weinige Nederlandse uitspraken over concurrerende biedingen bij een openbaar overnamebod. Het gaat in op een aantal interessante vragen over de rol van de raad van bestuur, de raad van commissarissen en de controlerende aandeelhouder bij een overname. Deze blogpost is een eerste commentaar die deze zaak in de ruimere juridische context kadert, parallellen trekt met de Amerikaanse overname-rechtspraak, en bespreekt welke lessen getrokken kunnen worden uit deze zaak. Continue reading ““Nee is nee” – lessen uit de zaak Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG)”

RPS-TRV Prize 2016 awarded to Tom Vos: freeze-out of minority shareholders

 

The TRV-RPS Prize 2016 for the best master thesis in company, financial or tax law written at a Belgian university is awarded to Tom Vos. His master thesis studied “freeze-outs of minority shareholders” using a comparative law and economics approach. The thesis is available here. A revised version will also be published in TRV-RPS.

This prize has been awarded by the Revue pratique des sociétés (RPS) since 2009. Since the merger of RPS with the Tijschrift voor Rechtspersoon en Vennootschap (TRV) in 2016, the prize is awarded by the combined journal TRV-RPS, the leading journal for company law in Belgium.

About the master thesis

The master thesis started from the problem that minority shareholders of a listed company often constitute a nuisance to a controlling shareholder. It then considered to what extent the controlling shareholder can eliminate the minority shareholders through a freeze-out, and what protection these minority shareholders should receive. Continue reading “RPS-TRV Prize 2016 awarded to Tom Vos: freeze-out of minority shareholders”