September 16, 2019 / 5:48 PM / 2 months ago

Morgan Stanley retains billing as top adviser in activist fights: Refinitiv data

FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed on the Morgan Stanley building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

BOSTON (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley (MS.N) ranked as the top financial adviser in activist campaigns during the first six months of 2019 while Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Spotlight Advisors each added clients and tied for second place, according to Refinitiv data.

Holding onto the No. 1 spot, Morgan Stanley advised 19 companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) and United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), in the first half of 2019. A year ago, when activists launched more campaigns overall, Morgan Stanley counseled 23 companies in the first six months of 2018.

Goldman Sachs, which worked for eBay Inc (EBAY.O), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY.O) and Zayo Group Holdings Inc (ZAYO.N) in the first half of 2019, and Spotlight, which worked for the Rice brothers as they took control of energy company EQT Corp (EQT.N), each listed 17 campaigns. A year ago, Goldman Sachs advised 12 companies while Spotlight, which works for both companies and activist investors, worked on 10 campaigns.

The top adviser rankings are closely watched in a world where investors push corporations for improvements by urging strategic reviews and asking for board seats, among other pressures brought to bear on the corner office.

Starboard Value tied with Saba Capital Management for busiest activist as each firm launched seven campaigns in the first half. Saba, run by Boaz Weinstein, has been targeting closed-end funds. Elliott Management, which ranked as busiest activist with 16 campaigns a year ago, was in third place with four engagements in the first half.

Okapi Partners held onto its spot as the busiest proxy solicitor, firms that gather shareholders’ votes, with 24 campaigns. MacKenzie Partners was second with 23 campaigns while Innisfree M&A listed 22 campaigns. Olshan Frome Wolosky was again listed as top legal adviser with 36 assignments, while Vinson & Elkins remained in second place with 19 campaigns.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Tom Brown

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