20th June 2019

AKZONOBEL FACES NEW LAWSUIT

The battle for the future of AkzoNobel, which recently centered on PPG's efforts to achieve a merger, is continuing through a lawsuit. Elliott Advisors, a hedge fund that is a subsidiary of investor Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, (Singer is pictured, left) is reportedly now the largest shareholder of coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel, and is trying to force out Antony Burgmans, chairman of the coatings maker’s supervisory board.

Elliott Advisers supported PPG's bid for a merger that started earlier this year. Burgmans and AkzoNobel CEO Ton Büchner were key figures in rejecting the US firm's approaches.

Elliott has initiated legal action in the Interim Relief Court in Amsterdam, in a suit that’s in addition to another it already filed against AkzoNobel in the Enterprise Chamber Court of the Netherlands. The new suit is expected to be heard this summer, though the earlier suit will not be heard until September.

Elliott tried removing Burgmans in April, when the investment firm reportedly owned only a 3.25-percent stake in the coatings company. It now has 9.5 percent of the shares. Elliott expressed displeasure with AkzoNobel’s unwillingness to go to the bargaining table with PPG; the company repeatedly denied PPG’s offers, which began in March, without negotiation.

Elliott moved to convene an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders, on the topic of removing Burgmans as chair. AkzoNobel expressed its support of Burgmans at the time, and denied the request.

“The view of the supervisory board is that the removal of Mr. Burgmans would be irresponsible, disproportionate, damaging and not in the best interest of the company, its shareholders and other stakeholders,” the company said in an April statement. “Therefore the proposed agenda item to remove Mr. Burgmans will be rejected.”

Burgmans joined AkzoNobel's supervisory board in 2006. He is a former chairman of Dutch-British consumer-goods giant Unilever NV. According to Reuters, Elliott filed the suit in an attempt to assert its dissatisfaction with AkzoNobel’s handling of the PPG proposals.

"Elliott finds chairman Burgmans’ views on shareholder democracy to be archaic and wholly unacceptable in today’s capital markets," the firm said in a statement. "A board which holds itself accountable to no one is not an appropriate governance paradigm. If shareholders are not able to regulate the conduct of Akzo Nobel's boards, who can?"

PPG made three official merger offers, the final worth about US$28-billion, before withdrawing its bid at the beginning of June. According to Dutch law, the company cannot make another offer for at least six months. 

www.elliottadvisors.co.uk