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International Press Coverage of CIAM

Les activistes ciblent davantage les sociétés européennes

L’Agefi rapporte qu’à Europe est devenu un terrain de jeu pour les activistes. Au premier trimestre, ils ont investi 7,7 milliards de dollars en Europe - depuis 2013, ce trimestre est le troisième où les montants sont plus élevés en Europe qu’aux Etats-Unis. Depuis janvier, 112 entreprises européennes ont fait l’objet de demandes publiques d’investisseurs activistes, et en France, Ciam est le plus actif.

Activists target European companies more

L’Agefi reports that Europe has become ‘a playground for activists’, with $7.7bn invested in Europe in the first quarter of 2018, the third quarter in which more has been invested in Europe than in the US since 2013. 112 European companies have been the subject of public campaigns from activists and in France CIAM has been the most active.

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L'AgefiCIAM
Considérons les fonds activistes comme des lanceurs d’alerte

Est-ce parce que certaines entreprises françaises symboliques sont sur la sellette que resurgissent tout à coup les réflexes du capitalisme à l’ancienne ? Toujours est-il que nous avons été très étonnées de lire dans la presse récemment [L’Agefi Quotidien du 16/10/2018], qu’une administratrice aussi expérimentée qu’Agnès Touraine, la présidente de l’IFA [Institut français des administrateurs], se permettait de nous assimiler, nous les fonds activistes, à des perturbateurs dont le seul objectif serait de « déstabiliser » des entreprises dans le but de faire de gros profits.

Or, si les fonds activistes présentent des profils divers, il faut tout de même rappeler que leurs campagnes sont toujours fondées sur des manquements de leurs cibles ; soit aux règles de gouvernance, soit aux droits des actionnaires minoritaires, voire parfois au droit tout court. Ainsi, CIAM est devenu activiste par nécessité et se focalise sur la gouvernance d’entreprise. Parce que gouvernance rime avec efficience. CIAM est un actionnaire engagé, participe aux assemblées générales et détient ses participations en moyenne quinze mois, ce qui est bien au-delà de la moyenne des autres actionnaires. De plus, notre objectif est plutôt de faire monter le cours de Bourse de nos positions que de le faire baisser.

Procès d’intention

Alors, pourquoi un tel procès d’intention à l’égard des activistes ? Probablement parce que l’activiste bouscule les belles – ou moins belles – endormies qui ont oublié lesdits principes de gouvernance. Parfois, le réveil est brutal.

La réalité, c’est aussi que la France n’est pas, loin de là, championne du monde de la gouvernance : les règles y sont souvent bafouées, notamment celles concernant les administrateurs indépendants, les rémunérations des dirigeants, les droits de vote, etc. Or justement, n’en déplaise à Agnès Touraine, l’activiste peut être un soutien précieux aux administrateurs indépendants. Il est tout d’abord un actionnaire courageux, qui monte au créneau pour s’opposer à des décisions qui lui paraissent contraires à ses intérêts de minoritaire. Si la société est prospère et fait de bons choix, la répercussion sera positive sur tous : l’entreprise, ses salariés, ses actionnaires.

Dans le cas de SFR, CIAM est intervenu en 2016-2017 pour éviter que ne soient prélevés des frais de gestion (entre 2 % et 3 % du CA, pour rémunérer le « savoir-faire d’Altice ») parce que cela nous a paru indécent et contraire à la pratique de Place. Un « Altice way » dont les actionnaires d’Altice ont pu goûter les effets peu de temps après… Rappelons aussi qu’en 2017, lors du retrait d’Euro Disney de la cote, CIAM a obtenu de la part du groupe Walt Disney qu’il améliore de 65 % la valeur de l’offre de rachat de sa filiale européenne. Euro Disney ayant été grossièrement sous-évalué en raison de transferts intragroupes colossaux. Tout cela a bel et bien bénéficié à l’ensemble des actionnaires minoritaires.

Est-il normal qu’il existe des transferts d’argent massifs entre filiales, qui appauvrissent l’une au bénéfice de l’autre ? Evidemment non. Est-il sain qu’une société utilise des cascades de holdings pour s’endetter excessivement, à ses risques et périls ? Nous pensons que non. La liste est très longue des abus de gestion et de gouvernance que peuvent dénoncer des fonds « engagés » comme le nôtre, surtout quand les administrateurs (plus ou moins) indépendants se taisent. La vision de l’activiste suscite souvent les bons débats.

Concernant l’offre de Covéa sur Scor, CIAM n’a jamais « exigé que cette offre soit acceptée », contrairement à ce que l’on a pu lire ici ou là. Nous avons demandé, en tant qu’actionnaire à 0,77 % (ce qui nous place parmi les 20 principaux actionnaires de Scor), qu’elle soit examinée dans ses détails, ce qui – nous le maintenons – n’a pas été le cas. Nous soutenons aussi qu’il y a d’autres points de gouvernance qui posent problème chez Scor, comme l’absence d’un plan de succession pour son omnipotent PDG ou le manque de véritable indépendance de la plupart des membres du conseil d’administration.

Voilà pourquoi, au lieu de considérer les activistes comme des « perturbateurs », l’IFA et les autres acteurs du marché devraient plutôt les reconnaître comme des lanceurs d’alerte susceptibles de corriger les abus et conflits d’intérêts encore trop présents au sein des entreprises françaises.

Catherine Berjal et Anne-Sophie d’Andlau, cofondatrices de CIAM

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L'AgefiCIAM
Activist Spotlight: A Closer Look at CIAM's Scor Campaign

by Ronald Orol

Anne-Sophie D'Andlau, managing partner at Charity Investment Asset Management, or CIAM, a Paris-based, five-year-old sometimes activist fund, is keeping a close eye on April 9, 2019.

That's when French reinsurer Scor SE's three-year standstill agreement with the Paris-based privately held insurance company, Covéa, expires.

The date is significant, considering that Covéa in August launched a hostile $9.6 billion bid to buy Scor. Scor rejected the since-withdrawn unsolicited offer, but Covéa has said it is still interested in purchasing the company.

The standstill deal prohibits Covéa from owning more than 10% of Scor unless there is a strategic change -- and it was signed in 2016 when Covéa acquired an 8.22% stake in Scor. After April 9, Covéa could accumulate more shares in Scor. In an interview with The Deal, CIAM's Anne-Sophie D'Andlau notes that with more shares Covéa would be a better strategic position to acquire the company outright.

CIAM, which acquired a 0.77% stake, launched a campaign in September with a letter to Scor's board threatening legal action against chairman and CEO Denis Kessler if he can't justify the decision to reject consideration of Covéa's bid. "We are making sure they are doing their fiduciary duty to review any offer that is on the table," D'Andlau said. "They have an investment bank adviser, but they didn't meet even briefly with bankers of the other side."

D'Andlau insists that Scor is an undervalued business with poor corporate governance and no succession plan for Kessler. Those characteristics, together with the hostile bid rejection, fit into CIAM's activist, and event-driven M&A investing strategy. The sometimes insurgent fund has a five-year track record of 11.5% annualized returns.

The fund and company disagree over corporate governance. D'Andlau contends that only three of thirteen directors on Scor's board are independent, though Scor refutes the assertion. A Scor spokesperson noted that 70% of the company's directors are independent under Afep-Medef rules, the corporate governance code of reference for publicly traded companies in France.

"The composition of the board is not independent enough, and there is also a concentration of power in Denis Kessler's hands," D'Andlau said.

Kessler and CIAM have also sparred over assertions that Scor's executive committee had threatened to resign if the bid was accepted. Last month, CIAM said the threat amounted to "unacceptable pressure on Scor's Board ... and a sign that Scor's management seems to be more driven by the desire to preserve their personal interests." In an interview with The Deal, D'Andlau argued that the Scor board would receive an approximate $40 million severance package if they were to resign, essentially a poison pill on Covea's offer considering that Covea is seeking to keep Scor's management intact if it can complete its acquisition offer.

Kessler later described the accusation as "founded on inauthentic information," and labeled it defamatory. However, D'Andlau suggested that Kessler's comment raised questions.

"You either deny it or say it is true," she said.

Later, Scor's reference director ultimately told CIAM that there was no letter suggesting that Scor's management team had threatened to resign in that scenario, a comment that Scor has since confirmed.

For now, Scor continues to contend that a Covéa -Scor combination is "fundamentally incompatible" with the reinsurer's strategy of independence, which it insists is a key factor in its development. The company noted in September that the bid would "jeopardize" its value-creating strategy.

Citing conflicts, Covéa chairman Thierry Derez on Sept. 28, said he was temporarily withdrawing from Scor's board, until the company's 2019 annual meeting. The withdrawal suggests that Derez may not return, as Covéa continues to pursue its acquisition effort.

A key consideration, Covéa had acquired its stake from Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, which had sought to acquire a 17.5% stake but couldn't. D'Andlau suggested that Kessler had urged Sompo not to sell its stake to Covéa, but it did anyway.

It is possible that Covéa could wait until its standstill with Scor expires so it can accumulate more shares and potentially hike its bid, which could put additional pressure on Kessler and Scor's board to consider the offer more thoroughly.

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The DealCIAM
Le fonds CIAM demande de nouvelles explications à Scor

L'Agefi rapporte que le CIAM demande que "Scor diffuse une information exacte et précise" sur l'existence ou non d'un prétendu engagement de démission des membres du comex en cas de contrôle par Covéa et CIAM souligne le mesures anti-OPA en place chez Scor.

CIAM demands new explanations from Scor

L’Agefi reports that CIAM has criticised the Board of Scor for its governance, highlighting CIAM’s demands for Scor to share further precise information on the alleged commitment from the Executive Committee to resign in the case of a takeover by Covea and highlights the anti-takeover measures in place at Scor.

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L'AgefiCIAM
CIAM has high hopes for Sky

by Justine Crestois

European activist fund CIAM is invested in Sky and believes the company is worth 17 pounds per share, CEO Catherine Berjal told has told Activist Insight Online.

The merger arbitrage specialist bought shares when they were trading at around 9 pounds per share, Berjal said. Although known for litigating buyouts it believes undervalue target companies, CIAM is taking a passive approach in this case, allowing other shareholders to argue for a better price.

A recent Takeover Panel decision set a floor price of 14 pounds after hearing arguments from Elliott Management and other shareholders arguing for a higher amount but CIAM did not expect that process would prove crucial to the outcome. “There’s an open auction, and that’s what we like,” Berjal told Activist Insight Online.

Sky shares breached 10 pounds per share in December 2017 and have not dropped significantly below that level this year, due to a bidding war between Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox.

On Thursday, the stock closed at 15.80 pounds, after it was revealed Fox and Comcast would square off in an auction for the broadcaster.

Activist Insight Online understands that CIAM owns around 3 million shares in Sky, or a 0.2% stake.

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Activist InsightCIAM
Le ton monte entre SCOR et Covéa

Les Echos rapporte qu'à Scor réclame le départ de Thierry Derez, le PDG de Covéa, de son conseil d'administration, à qui il reproche un conflit d'intérêts. Cet article souligne les préoccupations du CIAM concernant la gouvernance de Scor et la rapidité avec laquelle le conseil d’administration de Scor a rejeté l’offre de Covea.

The discussion heats up between Scor and Covea

Les Echos reports on the call from the Board of French reinsurance group, Scor, for the resignation of the CEO of Covea, its largest shareholder, from its Board, citing a conflict of interest due to Covea’s takeover offer. The article highlights CIAM’s concerns with the governance at Scor and the speed with which the Scor Board rejected the offer from Covea.

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Les EchosCIAM
Activist investor pressures French reinsurer Scor on takeover

by Inti Landauro

An activist investment fund on Tuesday put pressure on French reinsurer Scor's management after it rejected a friendly 8.2 billion euro ($9.57 billion) takeover offer late last month.

French activist investment fund CIAM asked Scor's Chief Executive Denis Kessler to engage in talks with French cooperative insurer Covea regarding the takeover offer and threatened legal action.

Kessler justified the decision to reject the offer saying Scor needed to remain independent and that the price did not reflect Scor's "intrinsic or strategic" value.

The CIAM move supports Covea, which already owns about 8.5 percent of Scor, in its takeover bid as it shows some minority shareholders disagree with the management's position and would be ready to sell. According to a source close to Covea, the firm is working on a new approach.

CIAM's president, Catherine Bejral, said in its letter to Scor that the management was legally obliged to talk to Covea.

"I would not hesitate to hold you and the Board of Directors legally liable for a decision which would constitute gross management negligence," she added.

CIAM holds 0.77 percent in Scor.

Since Covea offered to pay 43 euros per Scor share, a premium of about 20 percent, Bejral asked Kessler to detail his proposals to boost the share price above that level.

According to the Financial Times, Ian Kelly, Scor's head of investor relations, said CIAM intended to make a short-term profit out of the situation. "We deem this unacceptable," he told the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for Scor confirmed Kelly's comments.

Covea, an increasingly assertive player on the French insurance market, hopes a Scor deal will make it a major actor on the European stage, where a process of consolidation is set to create more opportunities for acquisitions.

The insurer is bound by a 2016 covenant to submit any stake increase to the board for approval until at least April 2019 and says it plans to keep its word.

The fragmented nature of Scor's ownership, with no one holding a larger stake than Covea, makes it a potential target for a hostile takeover.

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ReutersCIAM
French boutique unveils event-driven Ucits fund

Citywire Selector reports the launch of CIAM’s Satellite Event-Driven Ucits fund with capital of €242m to date, noting that the strategy will focus on a diversified events-driven approach, with a portfolio divided between merger arbitrage and special situations and a strong bias towards European equities.

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CitywireCIAM
French hedge fund unveils event-driven fund

Investment Europe reports that CIAM has launched a Satellite Event-Driven Ucits fund in July, with €242m of commitments to date, to invest in companies listed mainly in Western European and US equity markets, with a diversified events-driven approach, focused on mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs, tender offers, shareholder buybacks, debt exchanges, securities issuance or other capital structure adjustments and regulatory changes.

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Investment EuropeCIAM
CIAM launches Ucits fund with nearly $300m in commitments

HFMWeek reports that CIAM has launched a Satellite Event-Driven Ucits fund, in what is set to be the second largest launch of the year, with strong demand from institutional investors across Europe and €242m in commitments so far. The article notes that the fund uses a diversified event-driven strategy, combining merger arbitrage and special situations and that the portfolio will be more diversified and hold smaller positions than CIAM’s master fund.

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HFM WeekCIAM
La gestion active s’engage de plus en plus auprès des entreprises

Tandis que l’engagement actionnarial entre dans les mœurs, gérants d’actifs et gérants activistes en ont-ils une même vision ? Comgest et Anne-Sophie d’ANDLAU de Ciam partagent leurs vues concernant la gestion activiste pour L’Agefi.

As shareholder engagement is starting to become common practice, do asset managers and activist managers share the same vision? L’Agefi interviewed Anne-Sophie d’Andlau of CIAM and Comgest to hear their views.

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L'AgefiCIAM
Ne pas confondre capitalisme familial et gestion de bon père de famille

Tandis que l’on vante souvent les entreprises familiales et leur vision sur le long terme, contrairement à la Bourse et aux actionnaires financiers obsédés par un rapide retour sur investissement, un nouvel épisode sur la place parisienne vient de remettre ces a prioris en question.

While family businesses and their long-term approaches are often touted in contrast to the short-term approach often taken by the stock market and financial shareholders, the Parisian market has just experienced a new period where the roles are not as well defined.

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ChallengesCIAM
Ahold Delhaize rejects calls for shareholder vote on takeover defense

At its AGM, Dutch-Belgian supermarket group Ahold Delhaize said that a defence mechanism could be extended indefinitely and without investor approval, rejecting calls from CIAM and others for a shareholder vote on whether to retain a “poison pill” defence option. Reuters reports that CIAM and other shareholders in opposition of this could ask a judge at Amsterdam’s Enterprise Chamber to call an EGM to vote on the matter.

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ReutersCIAM
Le fonds activiste CIAM part à l'assaut d'Alès Groupe

CIAM critique la gouvernance d'Alès Groupe, le spécialiste en produits cosmétiques et capillaires. Les Echos rapporte que le hedge fund français a réclamé lors de l'assemblée générale de juin la nomination d'un nouveau membre du conseil de surveillance.

Les Echos reports that CIAM has criticised the governance of Alès Groupe, the cosmetics and hair product specialist, and that CIAM requested the appointment of a new member of the supervisory board at the company’s AGM in June.

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Les EchosCIAM
Activisme : CIAM conteste la gouvernance d'Alès Groupe

WanSquare rapporte que CIAM reproche au conseil de surveillance d'Alès Groupe d'être composé de membres familiaux ayant peu d'intérêt et de temps pour s'occuper sérieusement de l'entreprise de produits cosmétiques.

WanSquare reports that CIAM criticizes Alès Groupe’s supervisory board for being composed of family members with little interest and no time to properly manage the cosmetics company.

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WansquareCIAM