Friday, December 18, 2009

UK investors get tough! Um, anonymously.

The Times of London has interviewed "influential shareholders" and "investors" that want broad action to attack M&A advisory fees charged by investment banks. The Times is calling this "the latest example of a growing militancy among UK shareholders."

Ah, nothing's as noble as the cherished "anonymous militancy!"

While I mock these investors, I certainly don't mock their argument. I've long been of the opinion that M&A fees are exorbitant, and you'll gouge your eyes out if you break it down to an hourly rate. As the times points out, the fees paid in a potential Kraft-Cadbury deal might wipe out most or all of the proposed cost savings that said merger would create:

"Shareholders have been spurred into action by the cost of Kraft’s £10.3 billion takeover bid for Cadbury, the confectioner, They fear that expected advisory fees running into hundreds of millions of pounds will eclipse some of the cost savings that the American food group could generate if it wins control of Cadbury. Both Cadbury and Kraft declined to comment on fees they are paying to advisers. At 3 per cent, Kraft’s advisory bill for taking out Cadbury could hit £315 million."

The point these cowardly investors are missing when they say, "The pensions and savings of our customers are being used to pay ludicrous investment banking fees," is that as stewards of that investment capital, these managers have a vote, not to mention a responsibility. If they don't like management handing over enormous sums to bankers, well then vote out the board of directors and get new management, as is your right as a shareholder. But they'd rather run to the regulators.

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