Friday, September 2, 2016

Talking Two-Step Tender Offer Transaction Techniques for Texas Targets

Are we living in the Golden Age of the two step tender offer acquisition technique?  Probably so - last year, the process got a whole lot easier for buyers seeking to acquire publicly traded M&A targets incorporated in Texas.

What is Two Step Tender Offer?

A buyer seeking to acquire all of a public company (a Target) may either:
(1) propose a one-step merger - which generally must be approved by the Target's shareholders; or
(2) propose a tender offer - in which case the buyer offers to buy at least a majority of the Target's shares (STEP 1); followed by a "squeeze-out" merger in which a successful vote of the Target shareholders is already assured (because that was the minimum number of shares purchased in the tender offer) (STEP 2).

Historic Second Step Merger Thresholds Requirements

Historically, both the Delaware corporate law (Section 253 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL)) and Texas corporate law (Section 10.006 of the Texas Business Organizations Code (TBOC)) required that the buyer acquire at lease 90% of the Target shares after the tender offer in order to enter into a short-form merger.  Qualifying for short-from merger treatment was important because the short-form merger did not require a vote of the Target shareholders. It was presumed that such a vote would be meaningless because 90% of the shareholders would doubtlessly vote to approve the merger.

Shareholder merger votes cost time and money because state corporate law and SEC proxy voting rules require the preparation or a detailed disclosure document, an SEC review, and distribution of the disclosure document to the Target's shareholders.  

New Second Step Merger Threshold Requirements

Eventually, Delaware realized that a merger vote by the Target's shareholders would be equally meaningless if the buyer acquired at least a majority of the Target shares (or whatever the minimum number of shares otherwise necessary to approve a long-form merger under the DGCL and the corporation's certificate of incorporation).  So in 2013, Delaware adopted a new subsection (h) to Section 251 of the DGCL which permits the buyer to merge with a publicly traded Target (or a Target with more than 2,000 shareholders) following a tender offer under certain conditions.

Effective September 1, 2015, the State of Texas adopted new sub-sections (c), (d) and (e) to Section 21.459 of the TBOC, thereby granting public companies formed in Texas the right to merge without a shareholder vote following a successful tender offer.  The (relatively) new Texas rule is substantially similar to Section 251(h) of the DGCL.

Why do buyers like Two Step Tender Offers?

Simply put, a two step tender offer is a whole lot faster and cheaper than an acquisition via a traditional one-step merger, especially when the buyer is paying cash (rather than stock) to the Target's shareholders. This is because the SEC review process is generally more limited and more expedited for a tender offer than it is for a one-step merger.

According to a recent a survey conducted by the M&A Market Trends Subcommittee of the Mergers & Acquisitions Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association (ABA), from the announcement of a public M&A deal until the closing of the deal, the average cash tender offer takes 49 days, the average stock tender offer takes 54 days, the average cash merger takes 129, and the average stock merger takes 199 days.  (Thanks to Richard E. Climan, Joel I. Greenberg, and Claudia K. Simon for providing the survey data in a recent webcast sponsored by the ABA).  

What are the requirements to use the Two Step Tender Offer?

In order for a buyer to take advantage of Section 21.459(c) of the TBOC to obtain a shareholder vote waiver following a tender offer, certain conditions must be met, including the following:
  1. The Target's certificate of formation cannot prohibit merger without a shareholder vote;
  2. The Target's shares must be listed on a national securities exchange or held of record by at least 2,000 shareholders;
  3. The plan of merger must expressly: (A)  permit or require the merger to be effected under Section 21.459(c) of the TBOC; and (B) provide that the merger be effected as soon as practicable following the consummation of the tender offer;
  4. The tender offer must be for all of the outstanding voting shares of the corporation on the same terms provided in the plan of merger, except that the offer may exclude shares owned by: (A)  the Target corporation; (B) the buyer; (C) any person who owns, directly or indirectly, all of the ownership interests in the buyer; or (D) any direct or indirect wholly owned subsidiary of any of the foregoing persons;
  5. The buyer must acquire in the tender offer (together with shares held prior to the tender offer) a number of shares of the Target equal at least the percentage of the shares that, absent Section 21.459(c), would be required to approve the plan of merger under both: (A) the TBOC (generally, two-thirds (2/3) of the shares); and (B) the certificate of formation of the Target;
  6. The buyer must merges with or into the Target pursuant to the plan of merger; and
  7. Each outstanding share of the Target not purchased in the tender offer must be converted or exchanged in the merger into the same consideration as those selling in the tender offer.

Kudos to the Texas Legislature for following Delaware's lead in modernizing the two step tender offer rules for Texas Targets.