Whether notification comes from an open filing with the SEC, a private letter or an inbound call, the mere presence of an activist investor or fund in a company’s stock is enough to put even the most stalwart management team on edge. In recent years, the growth of specialty and hedge funds has led to a dramatic increase in shareholder activism, which has brought both problems and benefits to investors and managements.
One important point to keep in mind when dealing with activists is that despite their loud voices, activist shareholders’ opinions should not outweigh those of other shareholders. That said, as shareholders, activists’ opinions are important and can be very helpful if approached with an open mind, as most activists seek increases in a company’s share price just as management teams do.
However, interests often diverge with the time frames and methods each would like to see. Activists often seek to unlock existing value as rapidly as possible, often through reorganization and austerity, while management teams often take a longer-term view that focuses on investment and franchise expansion. Depending on the specific case, either approach could be the best path for shareholders as a whole.
Some management teams are reluctant to meet with hedge fund managers. While planning a road show or conference appearance, they try to meet with “long only” fund managers. While I can understand that management teams are reluctant to meet with hedge fund managers out of fear of a tense line of questioning or some form of brow beating during the meeting, the reality is that you can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid these meetings. The sheer number of hedge funds is staggering and almost $2 trillion dollars are under management within these funds.
Following are the top ten positive reasons management teams and IR professionals should keep hedge funds on the schedule:
Don’t judge the book by its cover. Hedge funds come in a variety of flavors. Funds can differentiate themselves by investment style, sector focus, geography, market cap, market neutral, long/short, etc. You may even be surprised to learn that some hedge funds are long-only or exclusively long-term oriented.
Despite their depiction by the popular press, not all hedge fund managers are “bad guys.” Many hedge fund managers are smart, considerate, thoughtful, long-term investors. Don’t let the structure of their fund dictate if you meet with them. Continue Reading