Luxury chains Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co, the glasses of EssilorLuxottica and GrandVision and now travel companies Corendon and Sunweb: all millions of takeover deals that were already on the table before the corona crisis and only had to be closed. In other words: geclosed.
And that is exactly where things often go wrong: because the economic malaise has meant that the value of the company that is being acquired has fallen sharply. Buyers are therefore increasingly reviewing their multi-million dollar contracts in the hope of getting out of it. This mainly happens in hard-hit sectors such as the retail and travel sector.
For example, travel organization Sunweb wants to stop acquiring industry peer Corendon. According to Sunweb, the conditions to complete the transaction could not be met. However, Corendon director Steven van der Heijden calls it “a typical action by an investment company that no longer makes sense in such a takeover in corona time” and today went to court for summary proceedings.
It is quite understandable that more and more buying parties are looking for an exit, says lawyer Marjolein van Leeuwen, specialist in the field of mergers and acquisitions and partner at JPR advocaten. “Last year everything was a breeze in the economy, then you continue with the scenario as it is. Now the travel sector has come to a standstill. You have to deal with that as well.”
Underlying the trend is that corona buyers regret their deal and want to walk away on that basis. “They normally call that buyer’s remorse: a purchase that you regret, “says Katinka Middelkoop, a partner at Allen & Overy and specialized in merger and acquisition advice.
Moreover, these deals involve millions or even billions of euros. “The spectacle battle, Tiffany & Co: these acquisitions involve a lot of money,” says Van Leeuwen. “Then it might pay off to take a closer look at the deal and ask yourself: is this still what I want to buy under the current circumstances?”
Not a golden formula
Whether buyers can actually avoid it is a second question. According to lawyers, there is no golden formula and every company uses something different.
Van Leeuwen: “At EssilorLuxottica and Grandvision there was a doubt that Grandvision had insufficiently covered itself against corona measures. About Corendon Sunweb says that they cannot meet the conditions that have been agreed, and it continues.”
Since corona, the option ‘force majeure and unforeseen circumstances’ is often looked at, says Middelkoop. “Then a company invokes certain suspensive conditions. Whether that is possible depends very much on the wording of that condition, such as whether a pandemic is explicitly included or excluded there.”
But to say that parties are backing out en masse is exaggerated, thinks Katinka Middelkoop. According to her, it is therefore important to see things in perspective. “These are some of the high-profile cases that are making headlines, but that’s only a small percentage of the total number of deals. There are also many sectors that have not been affected by the crisis and are running like they used to. In fact, our teams have it right now. even very busy. “
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