White Tale Tells Clariant its Terms
Following Swiss speciality chemicals producer Clariant’s decision last week to back away from the $20 bn merger with Huntsman announced in May – citing uncertainty over gaining the required approval by two-thirds of its shareholders – activist investor White Tale has launched a drive to reshape the company according to its own vision.
In a letter to management dated Oct. 30, the acquisition vehicle of the funds 40 North and Corvex, now Clariant’s biggest shareholder with 20% of capital, unveiled its targets, as a “long-term investor,” to ensure the chemical producer’s “success.” White Tale said its immediate priority is to have three of its representatives seated on the board of directors, while hinting that it will solicit support for this from other shareholders.
In the interest of restoring Clariant’s “credibility,” the investor also has called for the appointment of an independent financial advisor not involved in the Huntsman transaction to undertake a “thorough review of all strategic advantages without prejudging the outcome and without self-interested pre-conditions.”
As the Swiss company’s largest shareholder, White Tale said it will take responsibility to see its conditions fulfilled, and if Clariant’s management does not agree will push for an extraordinary general meeting. The funds stressed again that a primary goal continues to be divestment of the spun-off Plastics and Coatings business, with the proceeds reinvested in “pure-play” specialty chemicals businesses.
Without commenting on the proposals, Clariant said its supervisory board will discuss the “requests” at its next meeting. It added that it has also offered to outline its own growth strategy for White Tale, listen to its plans and discuss “appropriate concrete ways forward.” The company said it also has invited the investor to hold further talks, while continuing the ongoing dialog with all “shareholders that have shown long-term interest in the company.”
Commenting on the exchange of communications, analysts at investment broker Bernstein said they expect an independent review would show that the merger with Huntsman “did not make strategic sense.” At the same time, they noted that White Tale would need the support of 50% of share capital to remove Clariant’s management.
According to news agencies, CEO Hariolf Kottmann has indicated he has no plans to step down.