Advisory Board

  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Peter Clarke
  • Barry Diller
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp
  • Fu Chengyu
  • China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group)
  • Richard J. Gnodde
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V.
  • Jiang Jianqing
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd. (ICBC)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Richard Li
  • PCCW Limited
  • Pacific Century Group
  • Liew Mun Leong
  • Changi Airport Group
  • Martin Lipton
  • New York University
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Liu Mingkang
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Dinesh C. Paliwal
  • Harman International Industries
  • Leon Pasternak
  • BCC Partners
  • Tim Payne
  • Brunswick Group
  • Joseph R. Perella
  • Perella Weinberg Partners
  • Baron David de Rothschild
  • N M Rothschild & Sons Limited
  • Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara
  • Temasek International Pte. Ltd.
  • Shao Ning
  • State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of China (SASAC)
  • John W. Snow
  • Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Treasury
  • Bharat Vasani
  • Tata Group
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Wang Kejin
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Wei Jiafu
  • Kazakhstan Potash Corporation Limited
  • Yang Chao
  • China Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
  • Zhu Min
  • International Monetary Fund

Legal Roundtable

  • Dimitry Afanasiev
  • Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev and Partners (Moscow)
  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Johan Aalto
  • Hannes Snellman Attorneys Ltd (Finland)
  • Nigel P. G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May (London)
  • Willem J.L. Calkoen
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Rotterdam)
  • Peter Callens
  • Loyens & Loeff (Brussels)
  • Bertrand Cardi
  • Darrois Villey Maillot & Brochier (Paris)
  • Santiago Carregal
  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal (Buenos Aires)
  • Martín Carrizosa
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Bogotá)
  • Carlos G. Cordero G.
  • Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Panama)
  • Ewen Crouch
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Rachel Eng
  • WongPartnership (Singapore)
  • Sergio Erede
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Kenichi Fujinawa
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Manuel Galicia Romero
  • Galicia Abogados (Mexico City)
  • Danny Gilbert
  • Gilbert + Tobin (Sydney)
  • Vladimíra Glatzová
  • Glatzová & Co. (Prague)
  • Juan Miguel Goenechea
  • Uría Menéndez (Madrid)
  • Andrey A. Goltsblat
  • Goltsblat BLP (Moscow)
  • Juan Francisco Gutiérrez I.
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Santiago)
  • Fang He
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Christian Herbst
  • Schönherr (Vienna)
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Hein Hooghoudt
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Sameer Huda
  • Hadef & Partners (Dubai)
  • Masakazu Iwakura
  • TMI Associates (Tokyo)
  • Christof Jäckle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Frankfurt)
  • Michael Mervyn Katz
  • Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (Johannesburg)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Martin Lipton
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Alain Maillot
  • Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier (Paris)
  • Antônio Corrêa Meyer
  • Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice (São Paulo)
  • Sergio Michelsen Jaramillo
  • Brigard & Urrutia (Bogotá)
  • Zia Mody
  • AZB & Partners (Mumbai)
  • Christopher Murray
  • Osler (Toronto)
  • Francisco Antunes Maciel Müssnich
  • Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão (Rio de Janeiro)
  • I. Berl Nadler
  • Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP (Toronto)
  • Umberto Nicodano
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Brian O'Gorman
  • Arthur Cox (Dublin)
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Sang-Yeol Park
  • Park & Partners (Seoul)
  • José Antonio Payet Puccio
  • Payet Rey Cauvi (Lima)
  • Kees Peijster
  • COFRA Holding AG (Zug)
  • Juan Martín Perrotto
  • Uría & Menéndez (Madrid/Beijing)
  • Philip Podzebenko
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Geert Potjewijd
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek (Amsterdam/Beijing)
  • Qi Adam Li
  • Jun He Law Offices (Shanghai)
  • Biörn Riese
  • Jurie Advokat AB (Sweden)
  • Mark Rigotti
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Rafael Robles Miaja
  • Robles Miaja (Mexico City)
  • Alberto Saravalle
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Maximilian Schiessl
  • Hengeler Mueller (Düsseldorf)
  • Cyril S. Shroff
  • Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai)
  • Shardul S. Shroff
  • Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.(New Delhi)
  • Klaus Søgaard
  • Gorrissen Federspiel (Denmark)
  • Ezekiel Solomon
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Emanuel P. Strehle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Munich)
  • David E. Tadmor
  • Tadmor & Co. (Tel Aviv)
  • Kevin J. Thomson
  • Barrick Gold Corporation (Toronto)
  • Yu Wakae
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Tomasz Wardynski
  • Wardynski & Partners (Warsaw)
  • Xiao Wei
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Xu Ping
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Shuji Yanase
  • OK Corporation (Tokyo)
  • Alvin Yeo
  • WongPartnership LLP (Singapore)

Founding Directors

  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Nigel P.G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May
  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Peter Williamson
  • Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Franny Yao
  • Ernst & Young

IRISH UPDATE – Recent Trends in Corporate Migrations

Editor’s Note:  Brian O’Gorman specialises in corporate finance with a particular emphasis on mergers and acquisitions, public takeovers, equity capital markets and private equity.  Suzanne Kearney is a professional support lawyer at Arthur Cox.

Over the past decade a global trend of optimising holding company structures has developed amongst publicly traded multinational corporations. The strategic relocation of a holding company is, more often than not, conducted in tandem with a merger or other significant M&A transaction.

Ireland, alongside other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, has emerged as an attractive location, particularly for corporations seeking to expand into Europe.

INNOVATIVE STRUCTURES

There are often complex corporate, commercial, regu­latory, operational and tax structuring implications associated with the re-organisation of a global business to a new jurisdiction. The legal mechanisms employed in implementing such relocations will be driven by a range of diverse factors. In this note we explore some of the more interesting structures employed in recent transactions.

COURT SANCTIONED SCHEME OF ARRANGEMENT

The migration of public limited companies incorporated in a common law jurisdiction into Ireland in conjunction with a merger of other significant M&A transaction is often carried out by way of a court sanctioned scheme of arrangement (“Scheme”).

A Scheme is a statutory procedure whereby a company can (with court approval) make a compromise or arrangement with its shareholders (or a class of its shareholders). A Scheme has a wide scope for implementation, and lends itself to two separate methods for effecting a takeover of an existing (foreign) parent company by a new (Irish) parent company:

Cancellation Scheme: involves the shareholders of the existing (non-Irish) target agreeing to all of their shares in the target being cancelled in return for an agreed cash consideration per share being paid by the acquiring (Irish) company to such shareholders. The acquiring company agrees to pay the cash consideration on the basis that the target will use the reserve created by the cancellation of its existing shares to issue an identical number of new shares to the acquiring company.

Transfer Scheme: involves the shareholders of the target company agreeing to transfer all of their shares in the target to the acquiring company in return for an agreed cash purchase price per share being paid to such shareholders.

Structures involving a Scheme have been favoured by companies from the UK, Cayman, Bermudian and other common jurisdictions with legislation which caters for the use of a Scheme. This structure, however, is not available to entities who originate in a civil law jurisdiction, and, as a result, European companies have typically used a variety of other structures in connection with a migration to Ireland.

PaddyPower (Ireland) and Betfair (UK) ‘merged’ pursuant to a Scheme sanctioned by the High Court of England and Wales under UK company legislation, creating a new Irish holding company with headquarters in Ireland, having its main listing on the London Stock Exchange, with a secondary listing on the Irish Stock Exchange.

CROSS BORDER MERGERS

The EU Cross-Border Merger (“CBM”) regime facilitates mergers between Irish companies and EU incorporated companies (and companies incorporated in EEA States that have implemented the EU CBM Directive). The CBM regime permitted true “mergers” for the first time under Irish law, providing a new mechanism for Irish companies to receive a transfer of assets and liabilities from companies in other European/EEA jurisdictions.

European limited companies that are capable of merger under national law can merge into Irish registered companies as a CBM, with the merging company dissolved without going into liquidation on completion of the merger. Shareholder approval is required, followed by court applications by the merging companies in their respective jurisdictions. A CBM into Ireland takes effect pursuant to an order of the Irish High Court. In a CBM all of the assets and liabilities, together with the rights and obligations (including commercial contracts, employees, legal proceedings) of the merging company transfer to the Irish surviving company by operation of law.

A key advantage of a CBM is that it provides a harmonised, streamlined and often familiar procedure for European companies, eliminating the need for individual transfer documents typical under the traditional business sale and purchase model.

Flamel Technologies SA (France), completed CBM into its wholly-owned Irish subsidiary, Avadel Pharmaceuticals plc, with Avadel surviving the merger as the public holding company.

In the UK, the merger of Technip and FMC Technologies into UK incorporated TechnipFMC was achieved by CBM.

In 2017 the High Court of England and Wales authorised the first “reverse cross border merger” whereby a UK parent company, Formenta Limited, was absorbed by its Italian subsidiary.

MERGER INVOLVING NON-EU ENTITY

Only entities incorporated in EU/EEA member states can avail of the CBM regime (see above), however “mergers” by non-EU entities into Irish companies have been structured as a merger agreement pursuant to which the non-EU entity contractually agrees to merge into a newly incorporated Irish public limited company, which becomes the surviving entity post-merger. As such a merger is not governed by legislation, it is not subject to a court order, but approval of the merger agreement by the shareholders is required.

This structure has been used in connection with the merger of a Swiss public limited company into an Irish public limited company as the surviving entity. Following Brexit, this structure may prove useful in connection with the merger of UK companies into Ireland, as it is unlikely to be able to avail of the CBM regime.

Pentair Ltd. (Switzerland), a public limited company entered into a Merger Agreement with its Irish subsidiary Pentair plc., thereby changing its organisation jurisdiction from Switzerland to Ireland. The surviving entity Pentair-Ireland remained subject to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements and the applicable corporate governance rules of the NYSE.

SOCIETAS EUROPAEA

For public companies incorporated in the EU a corporate migration may be achieved by using a Societas Europaea. The Societas Europaea or “SE” is a European public limited company formed under EU legislation. The SE was initially developed as a new “pan-European” form of company with the objective of enabling companies to operate on a cross border basis under a unified framework, without the obstacles posed by disparities in domestic company law in each member state.

One of the key advantages of an SE is its ability to relocate by moving its registered office to another EU member state without requiring dissolution or the creation of a new legal entity.

It was hoped that SEs would provide a cost efficient mechanism facilitating the restructuring of European businesses by reducing the administrative burden and legal costs associated with establishing in a new jurisdiction. Despite the perceived advantages of this supra-national structure, outside of Germany (where the SE has been more widely availed of, including amongst groups such as Allianz, Porsche, BASF), uptake across Europe has generally been low. The reasons for this may be due to the complexities in creating an SE, which cannot be incorporated on a stand-alone basis, but must be formed from a pre-existing limited liability entity (by merger, as a holding company or subsidiary, or by the conversion from an existing public limited company). Establishing an SE involves an employee consultation process, which at best can take up to several months to complete.

The SE remains an option for European companies considering a relocation within the EU. However, it is likely to be more attractive to those entities which are already registered as an SE and would therefore only be required to undergo the process of transferring its registered office. Other forms of existing companies, would be obliged to follow a two stage process; first, registration as a “Societas Europaea,” followed by a relocation of its registration to Ireland.

James Hardie Industries migrated its parent holding company to Ireland using a Societas Europaea structure.

EXCHANGE (TENDER) OFFER

Another possible structure for effecting a cross border migration is through an exchange offer whereby an Irish public limited company offers to acquire all of the issued securities of the non-Irish target in exchange for issue of new securities in the Irish plc, resulting in the Irish plc becoming the new parent company of the group.

An exchange offer made to shareholders of the non-Irish target will be subject to the form, content and timing restrictions of any local law takeover regime (where applicable).

Exchange offers have to date proved less popular, perhaps due to the 90% acceptance level required to secure full implementation of the merger/ acquisition.

The exchange offer structure was used in the re-domiciliation of Strongbridge (formerly Cortendo AB) from Sweden to Ireland, whereby a newly incorporated Irish plc acquired all of the issued shares of the original Swedish parent company. A prospectus which set out the terms of the exchange offer (approved by the Central Bank of Ireland, the Irish competent authority) was made available to all eligible shareholders of Cortendo AB. The exchange offer was conditional on its acceptance by 90% shareholders in the Cotendo AB. Following completion of the transaction, the original Swedish parent company became a subsidiary of the new Irish ultimate parent company.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

DANISH UPDATE – New Danish Capital Markets Act

Editors’ Note: Mattias Vilhelm Warnøe Nielsen is a Partner at Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen Advokatpartnerselskab in Denmark where he is Head of Venture Capital and Startup Companies. Mattias is a highly regarded specialist and advises Danish startup companies on fundraising through private investors and seed investments. Mattias also advises Danish and multinational corporations on mergers and acquisitions. Andreas is a Junior Associate at Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen Advokatpartnerselskab where he primarily advises Danish and multinational corporations, both publicly traded and private, on mergers and acquisitions. Andreas also advises both Danish and multinational corporations on litigation, arbitration and bankruptcy proceedings.

1. Highlights:

   a) Prospectuses

         The Danish Securities Trading Act (Past)

         The obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus when offering securities to the public applies if the value of the offering to the public is equal to or above EUR 1,000,000. Only prospectuses prepared for offerings to the public with a value equal to or above EUR 5,000,000 are recognizable in other EU member states.

         The Danish Capital Markets Act (Present)

         The obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus when offering securities to the public applies if the value of the offering to the public is equal to or above EUR 5,000,000. All prospectuses are recognizable in other EU member states.

         Summary of Amendment: The Danish Capital Markets Act repeals the obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus when offering securities to the public at a value between EUR 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 (i.e. small prospectuses), see item 3 below.

 

   b) Public Announcement of Own Shares

         The Danish Securities Trading Act (Past)

         Issuers are obligated to make public their ownership of own shares in the event that such ownership reaches, exceeds or falls below 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 1/3, 50%, 2/3 or 90% of the voting rights or share capital.

         The Danish Capital Markets Act (Present)

         Issuers are obligated to make public their ownership of own shares in the event that such ownership reaches, exceeds or falls below 5% or 10% of the voting rights or share capital.

         Summary of Amendment: The Danish Capital Markets Act repeals the higher thresholds for the issuer’s obligation to make public their ownership. Thus, the obligation solely applies when the issuer’s ownership of own shares reaches, exceeds or falls below 5% or 10% of the voting rights or the share capital, see item 4 below.

 

   c) Equal Treatment of Shareholders

         The Danish Securities Trading Act (Past)

         An offeror making a takeover bid, whether mandatory or voluntary, shall treat all shareholders within the same share class equally.

         The Danish Capital Markets Act (Present)

         An offeror making a voluntary takeover bid with the objective of acquiring control over the issuer shall treat all shareholders equally, regardless of any division of share classes. For mandatory and other voluntary takeover bids, the offeror shall treat all shareholders within the same share class equally.

         Summary of Amendment: The Danish Capital Markets Act introduces a specific requirement of equal treatment of all shareholders in the issuer, regardless of share classes, in the event that the offeror makes a voluntary takeover to the shareholders in the issuer with the objective of acquiring control of the issuer, see item 5 below.

 

2. Introduction

The Danish Capital Markets Act, including certain executive orders, entered into force on 3 January 2018, replacing the former Danish Securities Trading Act and amending certain material aspects of the capital markets regulation in Denmark. Apart from certain amendments to the provisions of the Danish Securities Trading Act, the Danish Capital Markets Act contains provisions similar to those of the Danish Securities Trading Act with some language changes. This XBMA contribution highlights the material changes as a result of the Danish Capital Markets Act.

 

3. Prospectuses

The provisions in the Danish Securities Trading Act regarding the obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus for offerings to the public of a value between EUR 1,000,000 and EUR 5,000,000 have been repealed with the Danish Capital Markets Act which entered into force 3 January 2018.

The Danish Securities Trading Act contained both an obligation to prepare prospectuses for offerings between 1,000,000 and EUR 5,000,000 (i.e. small prospectuses) and an obligation to prepare prospectuses for offerings of or above EUR 5,000,000 (i.e. large prospectuses). The reason for the two different provisions was that the small prospectuses were subject only to Danish national regulation and did not enjoy the so-called EU passport for prospectuses (recognition in other EU member states than Denmark), as the small prospectuses were not prepared in accordance with the regulation as implemented from the Prospectus Directive (2003/71/EC).

As of 3 January 2018, issuers or offerors are only obliged to prepare and make public a prospectus when making offerings to the public of a value of EUR 5,000,000 or above. These are recognizable throughout all EU member states.

The threshold of EUR 5,000,000 is calculated on offerings made by the entity in question over a period of 12 months and on the basis of the market value of the securities in question and the costs associated with the offering to be paid by the investors, including e.g. levies. If the offering is made in DKK, the EUR 5,000,000 threshold is calculated based on the Danish National Bank’s public currency rate at the time of the commencement of the offering.

The Danish Capital Markets Act does not alter the obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus when securities are listed, and no threshold regarding value etc. applies to such obligation.

On 14 June 2017, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a new Prospectus Regulation (EU/2017/1129) that enters into force 21 July 2019. Certain exemptions to the obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus for public offerings entered into force on 20 July 2019, however; these specific exemptions are not the subject of this XBMA contribution.

In connection with the new Prospectus Regulation, the member states are authorized to increase the threshold for the obligation to prepare and make public a prospectus to offerings of a value on or above EUR 8,000,000. The Danish Parliament is currently treating an amendment to the Danish Capital Markets Act which will increase the Danish threshold from EUR 5,000,000 to EUR 8,000,000. If passed, the new threshold will apply from 21 July 2018.

Our opinion: As offerings in Denmark are usually smaller compared to offerings in other EU member states, the repeal of the requirement of small prospectuses and – if passed – the increase of the threshold for the requirement to larger prospectuses certainly lifts an administrative burden for offerors when making public offerings. This might mean that Denmark would become a more attractive forum for making public offerings, and in the future we might experience an increase in offerings.

 

4. Public Announcement of Own Shares

In accordance with the Danish Securities Trading Act, any shareholder in an issuer of listed shares was obligated to notify the Danish Financial Supervisory Agency (the FSA) and the issuer of the shareholder’s holding of shares in the issuer in the event that the holdings reached, exceeded or fell below 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 33%, 1/3, 50%, 66%, 2/3 or 90% of the voting rights or the share capital. The issuer should also notify the FSA in the event that the issuer’s holding of own shares reached, exceeded or fell below the aforementioned thresholds.

This provision has been implemented into the Danish Capital Markets Act. As of 3 January 2018, however, the issuer is only obligated to notify the FSA in the event that the issuer’s holding of own shares reaches, exceeds or falls below 5% and 10% of the voting rights and share capital. Other shareholders are still obligated to notify the issuer and the FSA regarding the holdings of shares in the issuer in the event that their holdings reach, exceed or fall below the old thresholds.

The issuer’s obligation has been amended in that the previous requirement, subject to the higher threshold, was a result of goldplating in Denmark, i.e. a national implementation of the Transparency Directive (2004/109/EC) in excess of the requirements in the directive.

Our opinion: As issuers most often do not hold a large bulk of own shares, the removal of the higher thresholds only has a practical value for a few issuers on the Danish capital markets. However, the amendments may prove to be an improvement of the administrative burden for such issuers. Moreover, should an issuer hold e.g. 20% of its own shares, such information will not be publically available in the future, unless the circumstances under which the issuer came to hold such shares have been disclosed in connection with the disclosure of inside information under the Market Abuse Regulation (EU/596/2014).

 

5. Equal Treatment of Shareholders

The Danish Securities Trading Act contained a requirement on offerors when making takeover bids to treat shareholders within the same share class equally.

The same requirement is adopted in the Danish Capital Markets Act, with exception, however, of a specific requirement on offerors making a voluntary takeover bid to the shareholders of a listed issuer with the objective of acquiring control over the issuer in question. In such event, the offeror shall treat all shareholders equally, irrespective of share classes and whether all or merely some of the share classes are listed on a regulated market place.

The requirement does not apply to a situation where the offeror makes a voluntary takeover bid without the objective of acquiring control over the issuer, nor does it apply to a situation where the offeror already has control over the issuer before making the takeover bid or where the offeror makes a mandatory takeover bid. In such events, the requirement of equal treatment of shareholders within the same share class applies.

Our opinion: There are certain scenarios in which this new requirement may be relevant, however, the most relevant scenario would be where an offeror makes a takeover bid for one share class with voting rights and intends to exclude another share class without voting rights from the takeover bid. In this event, and provided that control is the offeror’s objective, the offeror is forced to offer to purchase the other shareholders’ shares without voting rights on the same terms, including in relation to price etc., as the shareholders’ holding of shares with voting rights. As the shares with voting rights are more valuable to the offeror, we may see less favourable terms for purchasing shares during voluntary takeover bids in the future, seeing as an offeror shall compensate for the obligation of purchasing all shares on the same terms.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

CHINA UPDATE – Stricter enforcement of environmental regulations in China

Editors’ Note: Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh and Geert Potjewijd are partners at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, resident in Amsterdam, and Adam Li is a partner at JunHe LLP, resident in Shanghai and Silicon Valley. They are members of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable.  As leading M&A lawyers, they have broad expertise handling significant cross-border transactions.

Last year’s Party Congress made clear China’s commitment to environmental protection: in his opening speech, President Xi Jinping mentioned “environment” 89 times, while “economy” stopped at 70. The new environmental zeal has led to a surge in relocations and shutdowns, impacting companies active in China or heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers. This was illustrated by a recent Bloomberg article reporting that environmental action had resulted in a sudden shortage of raw material in the solar panel industry, driving up costs and crushing margins for scrambling manufacturers.

Companies active in China should comply with China’s new environmental regulations and assertively engage with authorities to prevent potential problems. In addition, companies heavily reliant on China-based suppliers, especially in highly-regulated areas or industries, should actively monitor risks and put precautionary measures in place to mitigate potential disruptions in their production and supply chains.

Changes in environmental policy enforcement 

Where previously China’s environmental enforcement authorities have been accused of lacking teeth due to the government’s unwillingness to interfere with economic growth, this notion has shifted since China’s new environmental protection law entered into force on 1 January 2015. In the past, environmental authorities reported to local government heads, who (for various reasons) might use their power to block environmental penalties interfering with their economic goals. Under the new law, however, these local environmental authorities can report directly to superior environmental authorities, removing this potential conflict of interest. Additionally, the new law enables environmental NGOs to pursue legal action – which could cause legal and reputational damage – against companies violating national environmental regulations.

The 2015 developments led to much stricter environmental enforcement in the following years. Since July 2016, four rounds of dawn raids and on-site inspections have penalised some 18,000 polluting companies. Moreover, shutdowns and relocations resulting from enforcement of environmental regulations have drastically increased since May 2017, affecting industries such as textiles, chemicals, plastics, coating, paper, rubber, metals, dyeing, painting and printing.

This trend is set to continue in the coming years as numerous new regulations and guidelines come into force. On 20 September 2017, China’s State Council released its ”Opinion Concerning Establishment of a Long-Term Mechanism for Early-Warning and Monitoring of Environmental and Natural Resources Carrying Capacity”. This opinion gives government authorities the power to suspend major projects in heavily-polluted areas. The opinion also states that companies responsible for damage to the environment, and local officials that fail to uphold the ban, may face criminal liability. Another development is China’s new environmental tax law, which came into force on 1 January 2018. This law increases the tax burden on entities that emit air, water, solid waste, or noise pollution, while granting preferential tax treatments to polluters which drastically reduce their emissions. Finally, the State Council issued ”Instruction 77 for Relocation of Hazardous Chemical Enterprises in Heavily Populated Areas” in August 2017, which addresses the relocation of hazardous chemical entities at a local level. Entities that create significant potential risks to the population must relocate by 2020, while larger entities need to move by 2025.

Assessment and outlook

Given the wide discretion of the enforcement actions, assertive engagement is crucial in dealing with China’s local government and environmental authorities. The increased importance of environmental protection will not only result in more inspections and enforcement, but is likely to have an impact on all regulatory approval. A satisfactory environmental narrative might very well become a key driver in establishing any form of government cooperation. For this reason, it is essential for companies to be proactive when addressing environmental protection. Proactive communication will not only help drive the conversation, but will also make the authorities more willing to collaborate.

From an operational perspective, China’s environmental crackdown has hit companies at every level, resulting in serious disruptions to supply chains, including for foreign multinationals. In addition to the example provided above, the SCMP recently reported that as a result of a forced shutdown of a Chinese supplier of a global car parts manufacturer, the production of more than 200 car models of 49 brands were affected. As this new enforcement trend is set to become the new norm, it is essential for companies to ensure that they not only comply with relevant regulations and guidelines themselves, but also audit their business partners’ compliance. In doing so, companies should be aware that even if they (or their business partners) comply with all existing legal requirements, they may still be subject to relocation; especially if a company operates in a highly-regulated area or industry, as relocation can sometimes be driven by unrelated (and thus more unpredictable) policy considerations. In this respect, supply chain management is key. As a sudden shutdown of a business partner can disrupt an entire production chain, it is crucial to carefully screen the complete supply chain for environmental compliance at both national and local levels and to ensure that any business partners have all the required licences. Depending on the standing of a company’s suppliers, contingency planning might be necessary.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

CHINESE UPDATE – China’s NDRC Issued New Outbound Investment Rules

Editors’ Note: This article was written and contributed by Wang Kaiding, corporate partner at King & Wood Mallesons. Mr. Wang focuses on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, foreign investment in China, corporate governance and general corporate law matters. He has worked on a range of transactions, including domestic and cross-border merger and acquisition transactions, private equity transactions, reorganizations, joint ventures and divestitures. He was joined by Huang Mengting and Tang Xinran in writing this article.

On 26 December 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) issued the Administrative Measures for Enterprise Outbound Investment[1] (“Regulation No. 11”) which will come into force on 1 March 2018.

Regulation No. 11 contains six chapters and 66 articles. Compared to the 2014 Administrative Measures for the Verification and Record-filing on Outbound Investment Projects[2] (“Regulation No. 9”), there are several significant changes. The change of the regulation’s title indicates that monitoring of outbound investments will no longer be limited to pre-transaction “verification” and “record-filing”, but will also cover the periods during and after transactions.

For a summary of pre-transaction administrative measures required under Regulation No. 11, please refer to the end of this article.

Key points to note about Regulation No. 11 are:

“Road-pass” regime eliminated, time costs reduced, and more deal certainty

Article 10 of Regulation No. 9 states that:

When undertaking outbound acquisitions or bidding projects with total investment exceeding USD300 million (inclusive), Chinese investors shall submit a project information report to NDRC before carrying out any substantive work.”

This article drew great market attention. Dubbed the “road-pass”, it meant Chinese investors involved in outbound bidding transactions exceeding USD300 million (inclusive), had to obtain confirmation letter from the NDRC before making a binding offer.

Regulation No. 11 eliminates the “road-pass” regime, which evidences NDRC’s intention to “further streamline administration and delegate power”.

Covered transactions expanded

1. Outbound investments are categorized into two types: those conducted directly by domestic investors; or through overseas enterprises controlled by domestic investors.

Regulation No. 9 applies to outbound investments conducted by domestic investors (i.e. domestic legal persons) or through their overseas enterprises or institutions if a domestic investor provided financing or guarantees.

According to Article 2 of Regulation No. 11, the scope of application of Regulation No. 11 covers outbound investments conducted directly by domestic investors (i.e. domestic enterprises) or through controlled overseas enterprises.

(1) Outbound investments conducted directly by domestic investors

Article 2 of Regulation No. 11 does not elaborate on outbound investments conducted “directly by domestic investors” or “through controlled overseas enterprises”.

Based on Article 14 of Regulation No. 11, outbound investments conducted “directly by domestic investors” refers to outbound investments relating to which domestic investors directly invest assets, interests or provide financing or a guarantee. The definition covers outbound investments conducted by domestic investors as the investing entity, or through their overseas enterprises (regardless of whether or not the domestic investor controls the overseas enterprise) with financing or a guarantee provided by a domestic investor.

(2) Outbound investments conducted through overseas enterprises controlled by domestic investors

Under Regulation No. 11, outbound investments conducted “through controlled overseas enterprises” refers to outbound investments conducted by overseas enterprises controlled by domestic investors in which the domestic investors do not directly invest assets, interests or provide financing or a guarantee.

Domestic investors conducting outbound investments through their overseas enterprises are not governed by Regulation No. 9 unless they have provided cross-border financing or guarantees. In practice, many investors used this loophole to avoid the verification and record-filing procedures required by Regulation No. 9. Outbound investments conducted by domestic natural persons are not governed by Regulation No. 9 either.

All outbound investments conducted by domestic investors through their controlled overseas enterprises (regardless of whether the domestic enterprise provides cross-border financing or guarantees or not) will now fall within the scope of Regulation No. 11. In addition, under Article 63 of Regulation No. 11, outbound investments conducted by domestic natural persons through their controlled overseas enterprises are also covered by Regulation No. 11, although Regulation No. 11 still does not apply to outbound investments conducted directly by domestic natural persons.

The wider coverage of Regulation No. 11 will not substantially increase compliance costs for domestic investors. With respect to domestic enterprises and domestic natural persons who conduct outbound investments through their controlled overseas enterprises (domestic investors do not directly invest assets, interests or provide financing or a guarantee):

  • Sensitive projects will be subject to a verification procedure.
  • For non-sensitive projects:
    • if the total investment amount from Chinese parties exceeds USD 300 million (inclusive), investors shall submit a “situation report for a non-sensitive project with a large amount” to NDRC before the project is implemented through an online system. Verification and record-filing procedures are not required;
    • if the total investment amount from Chinese parties is less than USD300 million, then no pre-transaction verification, record-filing or reporting is required.

2. Outbound investments made by financial enterprises are also regulated by NDRC

Regulation No. 9 did not explicitly exclude financial enterprises, but, in practice, some market players were unclear about whether it applied to outbound investments made by domestic financial enterprises.

Under Regulation No. 11, NDRC has specified that Regulation No. 11 applies to outbound investments made by domestic financial enterprises.

Sensitive projects clarified, focusing on national interests and security

“Sensitive projects” under Regulation No. 11 include projects involving sensitive countries, regions or industries.

1.  Sensitive countries and regions

Regulation No. 11 defines “sensitive countries and regions” as including countries and regions:

  • without diplomatic relations with China;
  • experiencing war or internal strife;
  • where investment by enterprise is restricted by international treaties, or agreements China concluded or acceded to.
  • other sensitive countries and regions.

With respect to the newly-added category “other sensitive countries and regions”, investors may consult with NDRC through the procedure stated in Article 15 of Regulation No. 11.

2.  Sensitive Industries

Regulation No. 11 defines “sensitive industries” as including:

  • research on, manufacture and repair of weaponry;
  • cross-border water resources development and utilization;
  • news media;
  • industries to be restricted from outbound investments according to laws, regulations and relevant macro-control policies.

A Sensitive Industry Directory will be released by NDRC separately.

3.  Outbound Investment Guidelines

On 4 August 2017, the State Council promulgated the Guidelines on Further Guiding and Regulating the Directions of outbound Investments[3] (“Guidelines”), formulated by NDRC, Ministry of Commerce, People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Guidelines divides outbound investments into “encouraged,” “restricted” and “prohibited” categories.

           (1) Prohibited category

Outbound investments that jeopardize (or may jeopardize) national interests and security are prohibited under the Guidelines. These include (a) outbound investments in relation to unauthorized export of Chinese military core technology and products; (b) outbound investments utilizing technologies, crafts, and products which are banned for export; (c) outbound investments in the gambling and pornography industries; (d) outbound investments prohibited by the international treaties China concluded or acceded to, and (e) other outbound investments that jeopardize or may jeopardize national interest or national security.

Under Article 5 of Regulation No. 11, outbound investments may not violate Chinese law and regulations or jeopardize national security or interests. Therefore, we understand that the category of prohibited outbound investments specified by the Guidelines should be regarded as outbound investments that violate Chinese laws and regulations.

           (2) Restricted category

Outbound investments which are inconsistent with foreign policies regarding peaceful development, mutually beneficial strategies and macro-control are restricted under the Guidelines. These include (a) outbound investments in any sensitive country and region without diplomatic relations with China, experiencing war or strife, or where investment by enterprise is restricted by international treaties, or agreements China concluded or acceded to; (b) outbound investments in the real estate, hotel, cinema, entertainment and sport club industries; (c) formation of equity investment funds or investment platforms without specific industrial projects; (d) outbound investments that utilize obsolete manufacturing equipment which cannot satisfy the technology standard of the destination country; or (e) outbound investments in violation of the destination country’s environment, energy efficiency and security standards.

The Guidelines specify that verification of relevant authorities is required for outbound investments falling under categories (a) to (c).

We understand that outbound investments under category (a) above are to sensitive countries and regions, while outbound investments under categories (b) and (c) are to sensitive industries, all of which are subject to verification under Regulation No. 11. Outbound investments under categories (d) and (e) are not subject to verification but will be closely supervised by authorities.

Verification and record-filing as an implementation condition– to comply with international practices and market conditions

Under Regulation No. 9, verification approval documents or record-filing notices issued by NDRC were a condition for transaction agreements to become effective.

In the international market, government approval is usually a condition for closing but does not affect a contract’s validity. In reality, many cross-border M&A’s conducted by domestic enterprises also regard government approvals as closing conditions. Therefore, there is a gap between Regulation No. 9 and market practice.

Under Regulation No. 11, domestic investors are required to obtain verification approval documents or record-filing notice prior to the “implementation” of a project. Prior to “implementation” means prior to when a domestic investor or its controlled overseas enterprise invests assets or interests into[4], or provides financing or guarantees for a project.

Explicitly stating circumstances and procedures where ‘change’ applications are required

Under Regulation No. 11, circumstances that require a ‘change’ application include:

  • Any change to the number of investors;
  • Any material change to the investment destination;
  • Any material change to main content and scale;
  • Any change to the amount of a Chinese party’s investment, equal to or greater than 20% (compared to the verified and filed amount) or of more than USD 100 million (inclusive);
  • Other circumstances where substantial changes are needed with respect to verification approval documents or record-filing notices.

Strengthening interim and ex post supervision

Articles 43, 44 and 45 of Regulation No. 11 provide mechanisms for reporting material adverse conditions, project completion, and inquiry and reports about material matters.

Under Article 44 (for projects subject to verification and record-filling requirement), the investor shall file a completion status report through the online system within 20 working days after the completion of a project (for example, after construction project completed, target shares or assets transaction closed, or investment amount paid).

Regulation by NDRC is no longer limited to pre-transaction regulation, with reporting and regulation mechanisms added for during the deal and after its closing. It is worth stressing that under Regulation No. 11, investors are only required to provide information to the authorities – not to perform verification and record-filing procedures.

The above changes to administrative measures demonstrate the clear direction of the reform — to streamline administration and delegate power, combine liberation with regulation, and improve services. The outcome will be a more transparent and predictable outbound investment administrative system.

In conclusion, we have summarized the pre-transaction administrative measures required under Regulation No. 11 for different types of outbound investment.

*****

[1] (企业境外投资管理办法)

[2] Issued by NDRC in April 2014 and as amended in December 2014 (境外投资项目核准和备案管理办法)

[3] 《关于进一步引导和规范境外投资方向的指导意见》(国办发〔2017〕74号)

[4] Excluding preliminary expenses for verification and record-filing in accordance with Article 17 of the Measures

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

GLOBAL M&A STATISTICAL UPDATE – XBMA Annual Review for 2017

Editors’ Note: The XBMA Review is published on a quarterly basis in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of trends and developments. In order to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the Review has utilized generally consistent metrics and sources of data since inception. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving the XBMA Review or for interpreting the data.
Executive Summary/Highlights: 
  • Global deal volume in 2017 exceeded US$3.6 trillion, just US$80 billion shy of 2016’s volume. 2015, 2016, and 2017 have been the three strongest years of deal-making since the financial crisis, with 2015 representing the high water mark of US$4.4 trillion.
  • Consistent with the trend over the previous two years, global M&A accelerated in Q4, as deal volume exceeded US$1.1 trillion, an increase of almost US$300 billion (or approximately 33%) versus Q3. The acceleration of M&A activity in Q4, driven by robust global economies, tax reform in the United States, and strategic responses to disruptive technologies, provides momentum for continued robust deal-making in 2018, including cross-border M&A.
  • Cross-border M&A activity exceeded US$1.2 trillion in 2017, accounting for approximately 35% of global M&A volume, consistent with recent historical proportions, and accounted for five of the 10 largest deals of 2017.
  • The United States continued to claim the largest share of global deal volume in Q4 and in full-year 2017. Over 46% of global M&A volume (more than US$500 billion) in Q4 consisted of deals involving U.S. targets. For full-year 2017, U.S. targets accounted for $1.4 trillion (40%) of deal volume, with approximately 18% of U.S. deals involving non-U.S. acquirors.
  • Deals for European targets remained the second most active segment in Q4, constituting almost 20% of global M&A volume (but less than the recent historical average of 24%). The market for Chinese targets also continued to demonstrate strength, accounting for more than 17% of global deal volume in Q4 (up from its recent historical average of 15%).
  • For each year since 2012, Q1 has had the lowest quarterly volume of M&A globally (and in North America, excepting 2017, when Q2 was the year’s least active quarter).
  • Global M&A volume in 2017 was led by the Real Estate sector, which topped US$525 billion for the year, driven by a strong Q4. The Energy & Power and High Technology sectors were also among the most active sectors in 2017, with US$482 billion and US$462 billion in deal volume, respectively.
  • Cross-border deals were an especially large component of activity in the Telecommunications sector and the Consumer Products sector, in which cross-border deals accounted for nearly 51% and 45% of global M&A volume, respectively, in 2017. In other sectors, the shares of global M&A volume attributable to cross-border deals ranged from 24% to 39%.

Click here to see the Review

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Enter your Email

Preview Newsletter