株式買取請求権と株価——Verition Partners v. Aruba Networks, 2019 Del. LEXIS 197 (Del. Apr. 16, 2019)

In this statutory appraisal case, the Court of Chancery found that the fair value of Aruba Networks, Inc., as defined by 8 Del. C. § 262, was $17.13 per share, which was the thirty-day average market price at which its shares traded before the media reported news of the transaction that gave rise to the appellants’ appraisal rights. … Because the Court of Chancery’s decision to use Aruba’s stock price instead of the deal price minus synergies was rooted in an erroneous factual finding that lacked record support, we answer that in the positive and reverse the Court of Chancery’s judgment. On remand, the Court of Chancery shall enter a final judgment for the petitioners awarding them $19.10 per share, which reflects the deal price minus the portion of synergies left with the seller as estimated by the respondent in this case, Aruba. …

Likewise, assuming an efficient market, the unaffected market price and that price as adjusted upward by a competitive bidding process leading to a sale of the entire company was likely to be strong evidence of fair value. By asserting that Dell and DFC “indicate[] that Aruba’s unaffected market price is entitled to substantial weight,” the Vice Chancellor seemed to suggest that this Court signaled in both cases that trading prices should be treated as exclusive indicators of fair value. However, Dell and DFC did not imply that the market price of a stock was necessarily the best estimate of the stock’s so-called fundamental value at any particular time. Rather, they did recognize that when a market was informationally efficient in the sense that “the market’s digestion and assessment of all publicly available information concerning [the Company] [is] quickly impounded into the Company’s stock price,” the market price is likely to be more informative of fundamental value. In fact, Dell’s references to market efficiency focused on informational efficiency—the idea that markets quickly reflect publicly available information and can be a proxy for fair value—not the idea that an informationally efficient market price invariably reflects the company’s fair value in an appraisal or fundamental value in economic terms. Nonetheless, to the extent the Court of Chancery read DFC and Dell as reaffirming the traditional Delaware view, which is accepted in corporate finance, that the price a stock trades at in an efficient market is an important indicator of its economic value that should be given weight, it was correct. And to the extent that the Court of Chancery also read DFC and Dell as reaffirming the view that when that market price is further informed by the efforts of arm’s length buyers of the entire company to learn more through due diligence, involving confidential non-public information, and with the keener incentives of someone considering taking the non-diversifiable risk of buying the entire entity, the price that results from that process is even more likely to be indicative of so-called fundamental value, it was correct. …

Under the semi-strong form of the efficient capital markets hypothesis, the unaffected market price is not assumed to factor in nonpublic information. In this case, however, HP had signed a confidentiality agreement, done exclusive due diligence, gotten access to material nonpublic information, and had a much sharper incentive to engage in price discovery than an ordinary trader because it was seeking to acquire all shares. Moreover, its information base was more current as of the time of the deal than the trading price used by the Vice Chancellor. Compounding these issues was the reality that Aruba was set to release strong earnings that HP knew about in the final negotiations, but that the market did not. As previously noted, Aruba’s stock price jumped 9.7% once those earnings were finally reported to the public. None of these issues were illuminated in the traditional way, and none of them were discussed by the Court of Chancery in a reasoned way in giving exclusive weight to a prior trading price that was $7.54 below what HP agreed to pay, and well below what Aruba had previously argued was fair value. (footnotes omitted)

via Steve Hecht, FT, Opinion, DealLawyers, Alison Frankel, Bloomberg Law, Matt Levine, The Chancery Daily, S&C, Potter Anderson, Morris James

デラウェア州会社法の改正案(2019年)

Richards, Layton & Finger, 2019 Proposed Amendments to the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (March 27, 2019)

Appraisal Rights. The 2019 Amendments make several technical changes to Section 262(d), which sets forth the provisions for notices to stockholders in circumstances where they are entitled to appraisal rights, to clarify such notice provisions and conform them to amended Section 232(a). The amendments to Section 262(d) will permit a corporation to deliver a notice of appraisal rights by courier or electronic mail (in addition to by U.S. mail). In addition, Section 262(d) is being amended to permit stockholders to deliver demands for appraisal by electronic transmission. …

via Proposed Amendments

株式買取請求権と株価——Verition Partners v. Aruba Networks

 Verition Partners v. Aruba Networks事件は、衡平法裁判所から、最高裁判所に上訴されたのですが、この事件について、Jesse M. Fried先生らがamicus briefを提出しています。

 最高裁での口頭弁論は、2019年3月27日のようです。

 最高裁の判断は、株式買取請求権と株価の関係について考えるいい材料になりそうです。

via Harvard, Harvard, WF&G, Skadden, Cornerstone, Morris James

Jonathan R. Macey & Joshua Mitts, Asking the Right Question: The Statutory Right of Appraisal and Efficient Markets, SSRN (2018)

We contend that courts should look at the market price of the securities of a target company whose shares are being valued, unadjusted for the news of the merger, rather than at the deal price that was reached by the parties in the transaction.

Unadjusted market price has two distinct advantages over deal price. First, the unadjusted market price automatically subtracts the target firm’s share of the synergy gains and agency cost reductions impounded in the deal price. This is appropriate to do because dissenting shareholders in appraisal proceedings are not entitled to these increments of value which are supplied by the bidder. Second, the unadjusted market price is unaffected by any flaws in the deal process that led to the ultimate merger agreement. Recently, commentators have contended that deal prices in merger transactions should be ignored in appraisal cases where there are flaws in the process that led to the sale.

Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks Inc.

株式買取請求権で市場価格を用いた例。

The forceful discussion of the efficient capital markets hypothesis in Dell and DFC indicates that Aruba’s unaffected market price is entitled to substantial weight.

[C]orporate finance theory reflects a belief that if an asset-such as the value of a company as reflected in the trading value of its stock-can be subject to close examination and bidding by many humans with an incentive to estimate its future cash flows value, the resulting collective judgment as to value is likely to be highly informative . . . .

“Market prices are typically viewed superior to other valuation techniques because, unlike, e.g., a single person’s discounted cash flow model, the market price should distill the collective judgment of the many based on all the publicly available information about a given company and the value of its shares.” “[I]n many circumstances a property interest is best valued by the amount a buyer will pay for it” and “a well-informed, liquid trading market will provide a measure of fair value superior to any estimate the court could impose.”

In this case, because Aruba’s shares “were widely traded on a public market based upon a rich information basis,” the fair value of the petitioners’ shares “would, to an economist, likely be best reflected by the prices at which their shares were trading as of the merger.” Aruba had “a deep base of public shareholders” and “highly active trading,” so “the price at which its shares trade is informative of fair value.” The unaffected thirty- day average market price of Aruba’s stock was $17.13 per share.

Dell and DFC teach that the deal price is also entitled to substantial weight. “In economics, the value of something is what it will fetch in the market. That is true of corporations, just as it is true of gold.” For a court to give weight to the deal price, it need not be the most reliable evidence of the Company’s value as a going concern.472 This court has authority “to determine, in its discretion, that the deal price is the most reliable evidence of fair value … , and that’s especially so in cases … where things like synergy gains or minority stockholder discounts are not contested.”

The deal price in this case resulted from an arm’s-length transaction involving a publicly traded company without a controlling stockholder. The deal price in this case contained synergies, so it logically exceeded fair value. There is also the fact that the petitioners failed to identify a bidder who would pay more than HP. “Fair value entails at minimum a price some buyer is willing to pay ….” Taken together, these propositions indicate that the deal price in this case operates as a ceiling for fair value.

The Dell and DFC decisions recognize that a deal price may include synergies and endorse deriving an indication of fair value from the deal price by deducting synergies. In this case, the evidence shows that the deal generated significant synergies. Using the low-end synergy range implies a standalone value of $21.08 per share. Using the high-end synergy range implies a standalone value of $15.32 per share. This decision has adopted the midpoint of $18.20 per share as its deal-price-less-synergies value.

This decision does not give any weight to the discounted cash flow analyses. As in Dell, “this appraisal case does not present the classic scenario in which there is reason to suspect that market forces cannot be relied upon to ensure fair treatment of the minority.” Discounted cash flow models are “often used in appraisal proceedings when the respondent company was not public or was not sold in an open market check.”

The reason for that is not that an economist wouldn’t consider the best estimate of a private company’s value to be the price it sold at in an open sale process of which all logical buyers were given full information and an equal opportunity to compete. Rather, the reason is that if such a process did not occur, corporate finance instructs that the value of the company to potential buyers should be reflected in its ability to generate future cash flows.

“But, a single person’s own estimate of the cash flows are just that, a good faith estimate by a single, reasonably informed person to predict the future. Thus, a singular discounted cash flow model is often most helpful when there isn’t an observable market price.” When market evidence is available, “the Court of Chancery should be chary about imposing the hazards that always come when a law-trained judge is forced to make a point estimate of fair value based on widely divergent partisan expert testimony.”

The unaffected market price provides direct evidence of the collective view of market participants as to Aruba’s fair value as a going concern during the period before the announcement of the transaction, which could be different than Aruba’s fair value as of closing. The same disconnect exists for the deal price, which provides evidence of how the parties to the merger agreement valued Aruba during the price negotiations, which could be different than Aruba’s fair value as of closing. Addressing a similar issue in the Union Illinois case, Chief Justice Strine described the temporal gap as a “quibble” and “not a forceful objection,” noting that “[t]he negotiation of merger terms always and necessarily precedes consummation.”484 Observing that “[n]othing in the record persuades me that [the company] was more valuable by [closing] than it was when the Merger terms were set,” he continued to use the deal price as an indicator of value.485 Similarly in this case, neither side proved that Aruba’s value had changed materially by closing, so this decision sticks with the unaffected market price and the deal price less synergies.

For Aruba, using its unaffected market price provides the more straightforward and reliable method for estimating the value of the entity as a going concern. I could strive to reach the same endpoint by backing out shared synergies and a share of value for reduced agency costs, but both steps are messy and provide ample opportunities for error. For Aruba, the unaffected market price provides a direct estimate of the same endpoint. Rather than representing my own fallible determination, it distills “the collective judgment of the many based on all the publicly available information about a given company and the value of its shares.” “[T]he price produced by an efficient market is generally a more reliable assessment of fair value than the view of a single analyst,” particularly when a trial judge is playing the analyst’s role.

This approach does not elevate “market value” to the governing standard under the appraisal statute. The governing standard for fair value under the appraisal statute remains the entity’s value as a going concern. For Aruba, the unaffected public market price provides the best evidence of its value as a going concern.

In this case, the best evidence of Aruba’s fair value as a going concern, exclusive of any value derived from the merger, is its thirty-day average unaffected market price of $17.13 per share. I recognize that no one argued for this result. I also recognize that the resulting award is lower than Aruba’s proposed figure of $19.75 per share. That figure relied on its expert’s discounted cash flow analysis, which this decision has found unpersuasive.

“When … none of the parties establishes a value that is persuasive, the Court must make a determination based on its own analysis.” The appraisal statute requires that “the Court shall determine the fair value of the shares.” This means that I must reach my own, independent determination of fair value. That determination is $17.13 per share.

(footnotes omitted)

via Morris James

Professors Weigh In On DFC Global Appeal

〔2017年1月1日追記〕

A categorical/presumptive rule is bad law. The mandatory language of Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (DGCL) directs the Court of Chancery to “take into account all relevant factors” in determining fair value. As explained below, the appraisal remedy is separate and distinct from the common law governing fiduciary duties and cleansing conflicts of interest. A merger-price presumption would also disregard the principles enunciated in Weinberger v. UOP, 457 A.2d 701 (Del. 1983), directing the Court of Chancery to value companies using methodologies recognized and applied by professionals in the field, including (but not limited to) discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis. Instead, a broadly hewn “Merger Price” rule would effectively nullify the appraisal remedy, undermining the statutory mandate of \S~262.

A categorical/presumptive rule is also bad economics: To be sure, the price resulting from an arm’s-length process may accurately reflect fair value. But not always. In numerous seemingly benign cases, a facially disinterested process can still render a price falling short of fair value. In such situations, fair compensation requires an appraisal rule that is independent of the merger price. In fact, even the credible threat of an appraisal untethered to the merger price increases the chance that a market process will more accurately reflect fair value, as both bidders and target boards internalize the cost of approving a transaction at the lowest end of the range of fair values. As explained below, this ex ante benefit persists even if appraisals are prone to judicial error.

Finally, a categorical/presumptive rule is bad legal policy. Simply put, context matters: The evidentiary value of the deal price is a highly fact-sensitive question, ill-suited to a bright-line test. Any attempt at judicial line-drawing—preordaining circumstances where the transaction price must (or must not) be taken as conclusive—is doomed to be both over- and under-inclusive. The jurisprudential straightjacket urged by Appellant undermines the judicial discretion of Delaware’s sophisticated judiciary—a key factor in Delaware’s corporate law dominance.

〔2017年1月9日追記〕

via Lowenstein Sandler, Lowenstein Sandler