Activist Investors Are Coming for Your Favorite Companies

Activist Investors Are Coming for Your Favorite Companies

Some of the world’s largest firms have been in the crosshairs of activist investors.

The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and Salesforce Inc. (CRM) are two recent examples. And there’s speculation that many others, including Target Corp. (TGT) and Paramount Global (PARA), could be on the short list for attention later this year.

The number of activists in the market has increased significantly over the past 10 years. According to S&P Global, 1,026 activist investor campaigns were launched in 2022—the highest annual total on record. And there were 17 instances of “swarming,” which happens when a company draws more than one activist campaign.

These recent increases are supported by low share prices, which allow for the accumulation of shares needed.

So, What Exactly Is an Activist Investor?

This is a hedge fund or high-net-worth individual who targets underperforming companies with the goal of increasing shareholder value. They buy up shares of a company with the intention of influencing the company’s management to make changes.

Although some activist investors can address their concerns with quiet boardroom conversation, the media picks up on the instances when activists start a PR campaign to convince other shareholders of their positions. And then there are the juicy instances when an activist tries to secure multiple board seats.

Here’s how it works…

  1. Activist investors look for targets. Some focus on strong brands that have been dragged down by bad strategic decisions. This also includes companies that have lost focus on their core profitable businesses. Generally, it’s an undervalued company that has a solvable problem.  

  2. They start accumulating common shares. Once the activist acquires more than 5% of the company’s voting shares, it’s required to file a Schedule 13D. This filing is a clue that the company might shortly see a campaign from an activist investor. Although it can be a lot of shares, activist investors can typically launch a campaign with a 5%–10% ownership of shares.

  3. They publicly propose a set of changes. This can be done through a public letter to the management. I’ve also seen this include letters to the employees and other shareholders.

  4. They negotiate or get other shareholders on board to vote for changes. If management isn’t open to changes, then the activist investor heads off to convince other shareholders that its solutions are viable. At this point, it’s common to see the activist investor put nominations forward for board seats.

  5. They sell shares for a profit once their objectives are achieved. Many activist investors see this process as a short-term investment. If the company pays a dividend, you may see them continue to hold shares if long-term value was created.

Can Activist Investors Make Real Change?

A recent study from Goldman Sachs analyzed more than 2,100 shareholder campaigns since 2006. These were all instances where activists attempted to add value to companies listed on the Russell 3000 Index.

The results were mixed. And for many companies, the results were short-lived (less than six months).

Source: Goldman Sachs

In the end, it’s important to remember that an activist investor is always looking out for itself first. Blackwells Capital’s recent campaign with The Necessity Retail REIT Inc. (RTL) is a great example.

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Blackwells launched a campaign citing that RTL’s use of an overpriced external management company was detrimental to shareholders. Before the vote for new board members, RTL announced a merger with Global Net Lease (GNL)… and Blackwells wasn’t happy.

I was skeptical about investors of both companies approving the terms until Blackwells suddenly became an advocate of the merger. In exchange for the change of heart, it received 495,000 GNL shares. Plus, Blackwells and its affiliates stand to receive an additional 1.6 million shares for their assistance in seeing the merger to completion.

Lock In 10% Before This Company’s Next Ex-Dividend Date

If you’re following the lead of an activist investor like this, make sure your entry and exit points are timed just right to make money. I’m not a fan of following activist investors, but sometimes when they target something on my watch list, I look for the opportunity.

Just yesterday, I shared my latest recommendation with my Yield Shark subscribers. It’s a legacy company that’s being targeted by an activist investor, and I’ve found a way for readers to lock in 10%... regardless of whether this campaign is successful.

There’s still plenty of time to jump in before the next ex-dividend date. Just click here to get started.

For more income now and in the future,

Kelly Green


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