In this article, Fried Frank LLP attorneys discuss the three appraisal decisions since the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in Dell – Aruba, AOL and SWS. The article notes that while the Supreme Court in Dell directed the Chancery Court to consider the deal price and accord it appropriate weight, these three decisions assigned no weight to the deal price in setting fair value below the deal price. Given the inconsistency with Dell, the authors suggest that other Chancery cases may not follow the same approach. Taking a more future-orientation, the authors also predict that appraisal results below the deal price will continue in arms-length mergers without a seriously flawed sales process, but may be above or even significantly above the deal price if the process is seriously flawed. These predictions have become more common, as authors and academics looking at appraisal have increasingly come to suggest that Dell (and its progeny to come) may be moving appraisal more towards the realm of fiduciary duty litigation than before.
On Friday, Vice Chancellor Glasscock issued his ruling in the AOL appraisal case. The court first set out to determine whether the merger transaction was “Dell Compliant,” which the Court defined to be “[w]here information necessary for participants in the market to make a bid is widely disseminated, and where the terms of the transaction are not structurally prohibitive or unduly limiting to such market participation.” Where those factors are present, “the trial court in its determination of fair value must take into consideration the transaction price as set by the market.” The Court then concluded, however, that the deal process in AOL was not “Dell Compliant” and relied entirely on a discounted cash flow analysis to award petitioners $48.70, or 2.6% below merger price.
The Delaware Supreme Court issued its highly-anticipated ruling today in the Dell appraisal case, reversing and remanding the trial court’s 28% premium awarded to the stockholders. In sum, the court held that where a company is sold in a pristine M&A auction process, the chancery court must give the merger price “heavy weight” in its ruling, leaving it to the trial court to decide just how much weight that should be in this case. The Supreme Court also ruled on a cross-appeal challenging how the trial court assessed expenses across the appraisal class.
For further coverage of the Dell decision, see the links below.
**This firm is a counsel of record in the Dell case.
Today’s Law360 [[$$]] reported on the oral argument conducted yesterday before Chancellor Bouchard in the Solera appraisal case.
** This firm is among the counsel of record in Solera.
On Monday, Law360 [$$] reported that the stockholders in the Clearwire appraisal action filed their opening brief in support of their appeal of the Chancery Court’s ruling, which found the fair value of Clearwire Corp. to be $2.13 per share, well below the $5 per share deal price paid by Sprint Nextel Corp. As reported in the article, on appeal, the stockholders argue that the “staggering discount” awarded by the Chancery Court is “virtually unprecedented.” We have previously posted on the Chancery decision here. We will continue to monitor the appeal and post on new developments as they arise.
The Delaware Supreme Court made its ruling this week in the ISN Software appraisal case. A three-judge panel (not the full bench) affirmed the Chancery Court’s decision awarding a premium that was more than 2.5 times the merger price, as reported in Law360 [$$]. The Supreme Court affirmed without rendering its own opinion, relying instead on the trial court’s reasoning. ISN Software was a privately held software company, with the appraisal case stemming from the controlling stockholder’s cash-out of some of the minority shares.
As reported in Law360 [$$], on October 11, 2017 the Delaware Supreme Court heard argument appealing the Chancery Court’s ruling in the ISN Software appraisal case. We have previously posted on the trial court’s decision here, in which Vice Chancellor Glasscock awarded a premium to the merger price. The Supreme Court did not rule and did not indicate when it would do so. You can see the complete oral argument here (under the October 11, 2017, listing; ISN Software v. Ad-Venture Capital). Unlike the Dell and DFC Global arguments, the Supreme Court did not convene en banc – that is, with a full five-justice proceeding – and instead conducted argument by a three-justice panel, which did not include the Chief Justice.
We will continue to monitor the docket and post when the ruling is issued.
As reported today in Law360 [$$], the Delaware Supreme Court heard argument yesterday on the chancery court’s ruling in the Dell appraisal case. The court did not render its decision and did not indicate when it would do so. We’ll continue to monitor the docket and post when the ruling comes down.
** Note: this law firm is one of the counsel of record in the Dell case.
As we previously posted, the Chancery Court appraised the fair value of Clearwire Corp. to be $2.13 per share, substantially below the $5 per share merger price paid by Sprint Nextel Corp in July 2013. This post will provide a more detailed breakdown of the ruling and the bases for Vice Chancellor Laster’s opinion.
Today the Delaware Chancery Court issued its ruling in the Clearwire case, which included claims for breach of fiduciary duty as well as appraisal arising from its acquisition by Sprint. We’ll provide a more comprehensive breakdown of the decision in a later post.
In the meantime, as reported today by Reuters, Hedge fund stung by unusual ruling over Sprint-Clearwire deal, the ruling “stands out for a court that rarely finds fair value below deal price, let alone more than 50 percent below.”
Among other factors, the court found that neither side argued in favor of deal price, and so the court did not even consider it but looked only at the respective valuation analyses put forth by each side’s valuation expert. Given the considerable synergies in this transaction, the court held that the deal price provided an “exaggerated picture” of Clearwire’s value. The court also noted that the experts’ choice of projections drove 90% of the difference in their DCF valuations.