Blow for blow

June 29, 2009

Hostile dealsHostile deals – and there are a few going on – have one unintended consequence: too many press releases.

Every side feels compelled to correct a rival’s spin as things heat up, which means almost every press statement has an equal and opposite reaction.

In Bermuda, a three-way battle between IPC, Validus and Max Capital flooded the wires for weeks with innumerable press releases, as each side tried to make a case for why their deal was better. (Shareholders voted down an IPC-Max deal, but the fight is not over yet.)

Sometimes the new point is, well, a rather fine point.

Consider this statement put out by Agrium, which is battling to take over rival CF.

Mike Wilson, Agrium’s CEO:
“Following a successful stockholder referendum on Agrium’s offer and after we reached out to CF and its advisors, CF’s Chairman and CEO Steve Wilson told me that CF would not meet with Agrium. Contradicting recent public comments that CF is prepared to engage, he stated to me that ‘there is no reason to meet because nothing has changed.’ Steve Wilson said he called since stockholders wanted him to engage with Agrium. I do not consider returning my phone calls to say that CF refuses to meet to be engagement and I don’t think CF stockholders will either.”

This time, though, CF did not rush out its own statement to address the allegation by Agrium’s Wilson that CF’s Wilson was contradicting his recent public comments.

CF spokesman Charles Nekvasil, when reached by phone, said the company did not “wish to engage in duelling press releases or press statements.”

And then he added: “Our position is that — as we spelled out last week when our CEO did an interview — nothing has changed from the perspective of the Agrium offer. We have indicated that given that situation we are willing to listen but nothing new is on the table.”

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