Call to action: Investor activism is surging in continental Europe
by Rob White
It is not just Americans who have sprung into action. A London-based group, The Children’s Investment Fund, recently led a successful campaign to urge Safran, a French maker of aeronautical parts, to lower its offer price for Zodiac, a poorly run French producer of aeroplane seats and toilets. On the other side of the deal, a French fund called CIAM had invested in Zodiac and sought the Safran takeover.
CIAM’s profile has risen in recent years. In 2013 it opposed a sale of Club Med, a tourism company in which it held a stake; that allowed a Chinese buyer, Fosun International, to step in with a higher bid. CIAM also campaigned for Disney to pay more to minority investors in Euro Disney, a subsidiary that was taken private in June. Anne-Sophie d’Andlau of CIAM calls such activism “new in France”, but says the trend is picking up. Activists previously struggled even to meet asset managers, for instance in Paris, says Ms d’Andlau. Now investors listen when she explains an idea.