AMSTERDAM Message from the front line of a takeover battle: even the smartest investors can make sloppy mistakes with a sensitive email.
In a communication seen by Reuters, Gordon Singer of hedge fund Elliot Advisors accidentally included a representative of AkzoNobel in an otherwise internal distribution list on Tuesday.
Not just any email, but one in which Elliott's team discussed tactics after privately informing Akzo it and other investors would seek to convene a meeting of Akzo shareholders to discuss the dismissal of Chairman Antony Burgmans due to his opposition to takeover talks with PPG Industries..
Akzo has said PPG's 24.6 billion euros ($26 billion) offer is not worth discussing further - a stance which has angered some shareholders who see scope for further talks between the two sides.
The Singer email speculated on whether Akzo would make public the letter calling for Burgman's dismissal and said shareholders would withdraw their call for a meeting if Burgmans did agree to talks with PPG. In a footnote, Singer instructed an Elliott employee to inform PPG that it had sent the letter to Akzo about the possible meeting.
Akzo Nobel's director of investor relations Lloyd Midwinter was mistakenly included as one of the addressees.
In its response to the letter, Akzo said it fully backed the chairman. Perhaps having noticed the footnote to the email, Akzo also filed a complaint with the Dutch financial markets authority AFM, alleging PPG and Elliott may have engaged in improper sharing of sensitive information. It demanded to know what if any agreements exist between PPG and Elliott.
Though it was not immediately clear what rules the U.S. company and the British fund might have violated, both felt obliged to respond. Elliott confirmed that it and other investors had been in contact with PPG.
Elliott is "aware of its various regulatory obligations, including obligations related to handling price sensitive, or potentially price sensitive, information," it said in a statement.
PPG "has always maintained its strict and long-standing policy of not sharing any material, non-public information and has acted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including those of the Netherlands, with respect to communications with any shareholders," it said.
"There has not been any, and there are currently no agreements or arrangements, in whatever form, between PPG and Elliott Advisors."
AFM confirmed it had received a complaint from Akzo but declined to comment on whether it would take any action.
($1 = 0.9422 euros)
(Editing by David Holmes)