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Målbolagsstyrelsens uppdrag vid offentliga uppköpserbjudanden - Med fokus på målbolagsstyrelsens överväganden och ansvar vid ingående av avtal om break fee för målbolagets räkning

Nordahl, Johanna LU (2011) JURM01 20111
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Denna uppsats problematiserar och undersöker målbolagsstyrelsens ställning vid offentliga uppköpserbjudanden genom att belysa oklarheter som råder kring målbolagsstyrelsens agerande, framförallt till följd av att ABL inte har anpassats till takeover-reglerna och vice versa. Målbolagsstyrelsens komplexa ställning exemplifieras i denna uppsats av en utredning av vilka överväganden och vilket aktiebolagsrättsligt ansvar målbolagsstyrelsen riskerar vid en budgivares begäran om att målbolagsstyrelsen ingår avtal om break fee för målbolagets räkning med budgivaren. Ett avtal om break fee ger budgivaren rätt till ersättning från målbolaget, om affären på grund av någon på förhand specificerad händelse, inte blir av. Avtalen är ännu relativt... (More)
Denna uppsats problematiserar och undersöker målbolagsstyrelsens ställning vid offentliga uppköpserbjudanden genom att belysa oklarheter som råder kring målbolagsstyrelsens agerande, framförallt till följd av att ABL inte har anpassats till takeover-reglerna och vice versa. Målbolagsstyrelsens komplexa ställning exemplifieras i denna uppsats av en utredning av vilka överväganden och vilket aktiebolagsrättsligt ansvar målbolagsstyrelsen riskerar vid en budgivares begäran om att målbolagsstyrelsen ingår avtal om break fee för målbolagets räkning med budgivaren. Ett avtal om break fee ger budgivaren rätt till ersättning från målbolaget, om affären på grund av någon på förhand specificerad händelse, inte blir av. Avtalen är ännu relativt ovanliga på den svenska marknaden, fenomenet är dock vanligare i utländsk rätt. Enligt svensk rätt är ingåendet av avtal om break fee problematiskt av flera anledningar. Fråga uppkommer under vilka förutsättningar ett avtal om break fee är förenligt med takeover-reglerna, hur det förhåller sig till förbudet mot försvarsåtgärder i LUA och om det kan strida mot aktiebolagsrätten.

Takeover-reglerna är relativt fåordiga avseende avtal om break fee. Bortsett från en kommentar som anger att styrelsen ska se till att avtalen är förenliga med gällande rätt och utformas med hänsyn till samtliga aktieägare, finns inga särskilda regler. Det finns dock ett antal allmänna principer, hämtade från takeover-direktivet, som styrelsen kan stödja sig på i sin bedömning. Det har också hävdats att regleringen av break fees i brittiska Takeover Code kan vara vägledande även för svensk del. Takeover Code står nu inför en revidering som kommer att innebära ett generellt förbud mot break fees. De kommande ändringarna har resulterat i initieringen av en översyn av de svenska reglerna. Det återstår att se hur den svenska regleringen kommer att utformas i framtiden.

LUA och dess förbud mot försvarsåtgärder utan bolagsstämmans godkännande utgör, i situationer då en konkurrerande budgivare är inblandad, ett potentiellt hinder för ett avtal om break fee och dess genomförande. I ABL finns också bestämmelser om beslutförhet, jäv och delegation som kan utgöra formella hinder för en styrelses handlande. Styrelsen måste även se till att uppfylla sin aktiebolagsrättsliga lojalitetsplikt gentemot bolaget och handla i bolagets intresse. I uppsatsen konstateras att det aktiebolagsrättsliga begreppet bolagets intresse inte kan utgöras av något annat än samtliga aktieägares intresse av att maximera sin vinst vid ett offentligt uppköpserbjudande. Konstaterandet öppnar upp för målbolags-styrelsen att avtala om break fee då detta ligger i samtliga aktieägares intresse, utan att styrelseledamöterna bryter mot lojalitetsplikten gentemot bolaget. ABL innehåller dock tvingande kapitalskyddsregler uppställda i borgenärernas intresse som aldrig får frångås samt formregler för värdeöverföringar som leder till att ett avtal om break fee i princip alltid ankommer på bolagsstämman. Det har dock, för att målbolagsstyrelsen ska kunna besluta att ingå avtal om break fee, hävdats att reduktionsslut är motiverat avseende reglerna om värdeöverföringar i ABL.

En överträdelse av ABL kan, under vissa förutsättningar, leda till ogiltighet enligt 8 kap. 42 § ABL om målbolagsstyrelsen rättshandlat för bolagets räkning i strid med sin behörighet eller befogenhet. En aktieägare eller borgenär kan också tänkas vilja ställa målbolagsstyrelsens ledamöter till ansvar om ett avtal om break fee resulterar i skada. Utsikterna för aktieägare och borgenärer att ha framgång med en skadeståndstalan mot styrelseledamöterna enligt ABL är små. Det kan dock tänkas att minst en tiondel av målbolagets ägare väljer att vägra ansvarsfrihet och kräva skadestånd för bolagets räkning. För ansvar krävs att styrelseledamöterna varit culpösa. För att gardera sig bör målbolagsstyrelsen tillse att beslutet att ingå avtal om break fee fattas av en icke jävig, beslutför och välinformerad målbolagsstyrelse som, mot bakgrund av osäkerheten som råder till följd av kommande förändringar av Takeover Code, rådfrågat AMN innan avtalets ingående. (Less)
Abstract
This thesis problematizes and investigates the role of the board in a public company facing a friendly takeover bid. It does this by illuminating ambiguities which concern actions of the target company board, due to the fact that the Swedish Companies Act and the Swedish Takeover Rules have not been brought into conformity with one another. The complicated role of the board is exemplified by the increased considerations of the board and risk of board liability when a bidder requests the board to enter into a break fee agreement with the bidder for the sake of the target company.

A break fee agreement entitles the bidder to compensation paid by the target company if the deal fails due to one of the stipulated triggering events.... (More)
This thesis problematizes and investigates the role of the board in a public company facing a friendly takeover bid. It does this by illuminating ambiguities which concern actions of the target company board, due to the fact that the Swedish Companies Act and the Swedish Takeover Rules have not been brought into conformity with one another. The complicated role of the board is exemplified by the increased considerations of the board and risk of board liability when a bidder requests the board to enter into a break fee agreement with the bidder for the sake of the target company.

A break fee agreement entitles the bidder to compensation paid by the target company if the deal fails due to one of the stipulated triggering events. Break fee agreements are still relatively rare in the Swedish market, but the phenomenon is more common in other jurisdictions. Entry into a break fee agreement is problematic under Swedish law for several reasons. Questions may arise as to what is required to enter into an agreement compatible with the Takeover Rules, whether and when a break fee agreement can constitute a breach of the Swedish Act on Takeover Bids’ takeover defense prohibition, and whether the agreement contravenes the Companies Act.

The Takeover Rules do not provide any instructions to the board on how to handle a request for a break fee agreement, besides a commentary instructing the board to draft agreements in accordance with the law and with regard to all shareholders. However, there are general principles, imported from the Takeover Directive, which the board can rely on when considering entering into a break fee agreement. It has also been asserted that the regulation of break fees in the UK Takeover Code can be used for additional guidance concerning the Swedish Takeover Rules. The UK Takeover Code is now awaiting amendments which will lead to a general prohibition of break fees. The upcoming amendments have resulted in the initiation of a review of the Swedish Takeover Rules. We have yet to see what this review will specify regarding break fees.

In situations when a competing bidder is known, the Swedish Act on Takeover Bids and its prohibition of takeover defense measures requiring shareholder authorization is a potential obstacle for a break fee agreement and its implementation. In the Companies Act there are provisions requiring the board to have competence to act on the behalf of the company, and these can constitute formal impediments to the actions of the board. The board must also be sure to fulfill its duty of loyalty to act in the interest of the company. In this thesis it is held that the notion “the interest of the company” cannot have another meaning than the interest, of all the target company’s shareholders, to maximize the value of their shares. Arguably this enables the board members to agree to break fees, when it is in the interest of all shareholders, without breaching their duties of loyalty.

Nevertheless, the Companies Act contains rules, protecting the assets of the company in the interest of the creditors, which cannot by any means be disregarded. It also contains formal rules requiring the decision to enter into a break fee agreement to be made by the shareholders at a shareholder meeting. It has been argued that these rules can be put aside, since it otherwise would not be possible for the board to enter into break fee agreements without previous shareholder approval at all.

The Companies Act stipulates that judicial acts taken by the board, on behalf of the company, which are inconsistent with the authority given to the board in the Companies Act are invalid during some circumstances. It is also possible that shareholders or creditors may want to charge the target board with liability, if damage has been caused by the boards entering into a break fee agreement. The success of such a charge is, however, not very likely, since the rules in the Companies Act give little room for the compensation of loss suffered by shareholders and creditors. Nevertheless it is feasible for ten percent of the shareholders to request compensation on behalf of the company, provided that the board members acted negligently. To be on the safe side the board should make sure that the decision to enter into a break fee agreement is made by a well informed majority of the board with no conflicts of interest. Due to the upcoming amendments of the Takeover Code and the uncertainties they create it is also recommended that the board ask the Swedish Securities Council for advice before an agreement is entered into. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Nordahl, Johanna LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
The Role of the Target Company's Board in Takeovers - In Particular about Actions of the Board and Risk of Board Liability when Entering into a Break Fee Agreement
course
JURM01 20111
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
associationsrätt, aktiemarknadsrätt, målbolagsstyrelsen, break fee, break up fee, inducement fee, deal protection
language
Swedish
id
2061318
date added to LUP
2011-09-02 16:43:41
date last changed
2011-09-02 16:43:41
@misc{2061318,
  abstract     = {This thesis problematizes and investigates the role of the board in a public company facing a friendly takeover bid. It does this by illuminating ambiguities which concern actions of the target company board, due to the fact that the Swedish Companies Act and the Swedish Takeover Rules have not been brought into conformity with one another. The complicated role of the board is exemplified by the increased considerations of the board and risk of board liability when a bidder requests the board to enter into a break fee agreement with the bidder for the sake of the target company.        

A break fee agreement entitles the bidder to compensation paid by the target company if the deal fails due to one of the stipulated triggering events. Break fee agreements are still relatively rare in the Swedish market, but the phenomenon is more common in other jurisdictions. Entry into a break fee agreement is problematic under Swedish law for several reasons. Questions may arise as to what is required to enter into an agreement compatible with the Takeover Rules, whether and when a break fee agreement can constitute a breach of the Swedish Act on Takeover Bids’ takeover defense prohibition, and whether the agreement contravenes the Companies Act.     

The Takeover Rules do not provide any instructions to the board on how to handle a request for a break fee agreement, besides a commentary instructing the board to draft agreements in accordance with the law and with regard to all shareholders. However, there are general principles, imported from the Takeover Directive, which the board can rely on when considering entering into a break fee agreement. It has also been asserted that the regulation of break fees in the UK Takeover Code can be used for additional guidance concerning the Swedish Takeover Rules. The UK Takeover Code is now awaiting amendments which will lead to a general prohibition of break fees. The upcoming amendments have resulted in the initiation of a review of the Swedish Takeover Rules. We have yet to see what this review will specify regarding break fees. 

In situations when a competing bidder is known, the Swedish Act on Takeover Bids and its prohibition of takeover defense measures requiring shareholder authorization is a potential obstacle for a break fee agreement and its implementation. In the Companies Act there are provisions requiring the board to have competence to act on the behalf of the company, and these can constitute formal impediments to the actions of the board. The board must also be sure to fulfill its duty of loyalty to act in the interest of the company. In this thesis it is held that the notion “the interest of the company” cannot have another meaning than the interest, of all the target company’s shareholders, to maximize the value of their shares. Arguably this enables the board members to agree to break fees, when it is in the interest of all shareholders, without breaching their duties of loyalty.     

Nevertheless, the Companies Act contains rules, protecting the assets of the company in the interest of the creditors, which cannot by any means be disregarded. It also contains formal rules requiring the decision to enter into a break fee agreement to be made by the shareholders at a shareholder meeting. It has been argued that these rules can be put aside, since it otherwise would not be possible for the board to enter into break fee agreements without previous shareholder approval at all.   

The Companies Act stipulates that judicial acts taken by the board, on behalf of the company, which are inconsistent with the authority given to the board in the Companies Act are invalid during some circumstances. It is also possible that shareholders or creditors may want to charge the target board with liability, if damage has been caused by the boards entering into a break fee agreement. The success of such a charge is, however, not very likely, since the rules in the Companies Act give little room for the compensation of loss suffered by shareholders and creditors. Nevertheless it is feasible for ten percent of the shareholders to request compensation on behalf of the company, provided that the board members acted negligently. To be on the safe side the board should make sure that the decision to enter into a break fee agreement is made by a well informed majority of the board with no conflicts of interest. Due to the upcoming amendments of the Takeover Code and the uncertainties they create it is also recommended that the board ask the Swedish Securities Council for advice before an agreement is entered into.},
  author       = {Nordahl, Johanna},
  keyword      = {associationsrätt,aktiemarknadsrätt,målbolagsstyrelsen,break fee,break up fee,inducement fee,deal protection},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Målbolagsstyrelsens uppdrag vid offentliga uppköpserbjudanden - Med fokus på målbolagsstyrelsens överväganden och ansvar vid ingående av avtal om break fee för målbolagets räkning},
  year         = {2011},
}