Shareholder Activism Jumps in First Half of Year

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By Yin Wilczek

July 14 — Shareholder activists targeted 216 U.S. companies in the first half of the year, a new report finds.

In addition, they targeted 84 companies in other countries, including Europe (31 companies), Canada (21 companies) and Asia (10 companies).

The total number of companies worldwide that faced activist demands—300—represents a 23 percent increase compared to the first half of 2014, according to Activist Insight and Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP's “Half-Year Review 2015.”

The July 14 report also predicted that by year's end, activists likely would have made demands at 500 issuers based on average projection rates from 2010 to 2014.

‘New Normal.'

“By all accounts, 2015 is the year shareholder activism has cemented itself as the ‘new normal' in corporate America,” Olshan Frome Wolosky partners Steve Wolosky and Andrew Freedman wrote in the report's foreword.

According to the report, about two-thirds of activist demands, including shareholder proposals, were at least partially successful this year.

It also noted that the most widely-followed proxy contest in 2015 was veteran activist investor Nelson Peltz's campaign for a seat on DuPont Co.'s board and to split up the 212-year-old chemical company. The bid was rejected by shareholders in May.

Other high-profile fights this year include Carl Icahn's push for eBay Inc. to spin off its PayPal unit and Apple Inc.'s buying back of shares after pressure from Icahn and others.

Companies, meanwhile, are initiating defensive measures in the face of mounting activism. Earlier this month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that it is forming a coalition to fend off activist investors.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

The report and a related release are available at http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/activist-insight-and-olshan-frome-wolosky-release-activism-monthly-premium-the-half-year-review-2015-300112886.html.