Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monkey see, monkey do

Back in November, Dow Chemical was able to reach a truce with their "activist investor" Daniel Loeb of Third Point LLC., by letting Third Point put two of their people on the Dow Chemical Board of Directors. (In a rather intelligent move, Dow Chemical also added 2 additional directors so there are now 14 total. Had Loeb won his proxy fight, his 2 directors would have been 2/10 = 20% of the board. Now they are 2/14 = 14%. It may have been awhile since Dow's CEO was at the bench, but he certainly understands dilution to this day.)

The other large US-based chemical company whose name also starts with with the letter "D" is now in a similar fight with an activist investor, in this case Nelson Peltz and his company Trian Investors. No doubt emboldened by Loeb's (dubious) success, guess what Peltz wants? You got it - he wants to put directors on Dupont's board! Peltz obviously has a little more time on his hands than Loeb does, as Peltz wants to be one of the directors, while Loeb was quite content to let his cohorts have that role.

Dupont's Board is already 14 members and Peltz is running a slate of four candidates. If they all win, they would make up almost 4/14 = 29% of the Board. Or maybe Dupont can copy what Dow did and let Peltz put two on the board while Dupont adds two more, in which case Peltz will only control 2/18 = 11% of the Board. That would be a significant swing.

I've not followed Dupont's business closely, so they may or may not be deserving of a kick in the pants to wake them up, but activist investors never sit well with me. They strike me as too much grandstanding and publicity seeking and not having enough focus on rational thought. Such behavior is typical for politicians. I don't approve of it from either group.

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