SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Takeovers;
  • Market efficiency;
  • Market anticipation;
  • Insider trading;
  • Toeholds;
  • Substantial shareholder notices

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

This study empirically examines the impact of changes in substantial shareholdings ahead of 450 Australian takeover offers between the years 2000 and 2009. Previous studies have attributed a significant proportion of the price run-up effect in takeover targets to insider-trading behaviour. This study examines the contribution of a broad range of public information sources that are known to typically generate market anticipation, including the acquisition of toeholds ahead of takeover announcements. Our findings show no significant pre-bid run-up for takeover targets after considering these sources. We conclude from these results that previous findings attributing pre-bid share price run-up to illegal insider trading may overstate the existence of such conduct.

1. Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

A considerable body of empirical evidence has accumulated over the last few decades showing a persistent and substantial target stock price run-up prior to the announcement of a takeover bid (Jarrell and Poulsen, 1989; Betton and Eckbo, 2000; Bris, 2005). This effect is robust for different time periods and financial market structures, but whilst there is consensus regarding the nature and magnitude of the run-up, less clear are the reasons for its existence.Anecdotal Australian evidence suggests that unchecked insider trading is the cause, however several other explanations have been suggested in the academic literature.1 These include the actions of illegal insider traders (Meulbroek, 1992); that the run-up is based on market speculation of industry dynamics, and therefore perpetuated by market anticipators (Jensen and Ruback, 1983); or that it reflects takeover rumours based on market information such as those related to toehold acquisitions (Jarrell and Poulsen, 1989).2

In this study, we examine whether pre-bid acquisition stakes help to explain target stock price run-ups in an informationally transparent market framework. By utilising a unique database containing changes in substantial shareholdings prior to the takeover event, we shed empirical light on the causes of the run-up to a takeover. Our ability to explain the pre-bid price run-up has several contributions. This is the first study that quantifies the impact of both toehold acquisition and timing on the pre-bid run-up. This is also the first study to examine the combined ability of rumours, information announcements and toehold timing to explain the pre-bid run-up. Our analysis shows the timing of toehold positions is a non-trivial cause of the price run-up not previously considered in earlier studies and that the combination of these three sources of information are able to explain the vast majority of the pre-bid run-up. This pre-bid run-up has been used in several studies as evidence of illegal insider trading.3 If toehold timing has the capacity to drive significant pre-bid run-up, these previous findings may need revisiting.

Previous theoretical (Bris, 2002) and empirical (Jarrell and Poulsen, 1989; Aitken and Czernkowski, 1992; Betton et al., 2008) studies suggest that toehold acquisitions prior to takeovers may have the capacity to generate pre-bid run-up. To date, however, there has been little success in documenting this effect. Preliminary efforts have found conflicting evidence, with Betton and Eckbo (2000) reporting a significant and negative relationship between the existence of toeholds and the pre-bid run-up, whilst Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) show a significant positive relationship. This lack of consensus is likely driven by the absence of information regarding the accumulation of target shares by the bidder, a problem acknowledged in these previous studies. We provide an explanation to reconcile the previously reported inconsistencies by differentiating between toeholds that are acquired immediately prior to the takeover bid (henceforth ‘short-term toeholds’) and those that have been held for a significant period of time (‘long-term toeholds’).

In addition to bidder toehold information, the operation of continuous disclosure rules in the Australian market means that information events not associated with the takeover announcement can be identified and removed from the examination of takeover wealth effects.4 Not only does the continuous disclosure framework require the immediate release of price-sensitive announcements to the market, each of these announcements are subsequently flagged as either price or non-price sensitive. The ability to control for price-sensitive announcements provides further clarity on the causes of pre-bid price reactions by allowing potentially confounding events to be removed from the data set. This disclosure regime differs significantly from the Fair Disclosure regulations of the United States, which mandate only periodic reporting, with additional news releases submitted voluntarily. Disclosure requirements, such as those in Australia exist in many developed markets globally, including the UK, New Zealand and Canada. This allows for the extension of this research method to other developed markets.

As regulators seek to become more ‘evidence based’5 in their approach to policy making, this work quantifies the impacts of rumours, news announcements and toehold acquisitions as sources of pre-bid run-up. This has implications for regulators interested in identifying and limiting the causes of information leakage. It also reveals potential impacts of toehold acquisition timing to market participants, particularly bidders considering acquiring a pre-announcement stake in a target company.

The remainder of this study is structured as follows: Section 2 reviews the existing literature on toeholds and discusses previous explanations. Section 3 describes the data used. Section 4 outlines the research methodology. Section 5 discusses the results. Section 6 examines robustness tests and Section 7 provides concluding remarks.

2. Literature review and hypothesis development

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

The stock price run-up effect observed in target firms prior to takeover announcements has been documented across a range of different market structures through time.6 A survey by Bris (2005) reports an average price run-up of between 4 and 17 per cent for 4500 deals across 52 countries. Unfortunately, studies of the cause of this pre-bid run-up have been unable to conclusively explain the reason for this observed phenomenon. The possibilities explored in the current literature consider insider trading (Keown and Pinkerton, 1981; Meulbroek, 1992), rumours in the news media (Pound and Zeckhauser, 1990; Sanders and Zdanowicz, 1992) and market anticipation (Jensen and Ruback, 1983; Jarrell and Poulsen, 1989).

Insider trading was formally provided as an explanation for abnormal pre-bid price movements by Keown and Pinkerton (1981). The authors, observing average pre-bid run-ups of 13 per cent for over 200 US takeovers, argued that this is symptomatic of widespread illegal trading on inside information.7 This conclusion is supported by studies of prosecuted insider-trading episodes undertaken by Meulbroek (1992) and Cornell and Sirri (1992). Whilst Keown and Pinkerton (1981) rely on the extent to which share prices move ahead of public takeover announcements to form this opinion, Meulbroek (1992) uses data from illegal insiders' trades to document that almost half of the observed pre-bid run-up is experienced on days in which insiders traded. Chakravarty and McConnell (1997) find further support for this theory, identifying a positive and significant relationship between insiders' trades and pre-bid price run-up.

Jensen and Ruback (1983) propose an alternative explanation for the abnormal price movements observed prior to takeover events, arguing that the pre-bid run-up is a function of market anticipation derived from public information. The authors reason that public rumours of impending takeovers are traded upon by speculators, which is ultimately being reflected in share price movements prior to the official announcement. Anticipation can however be more than just deal specific, with takeovers shown to be clustered through time, further facilitating takeover target prediction.8

Although Jensen and Ruback (1983) do not specifically address the mechanisms by which this information is translated into prices, Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) formally examine the contribution of different forms of publicly available information on the share price run-up. In a study of 172 US takeovers, the authors show that there is an insignificant difference between the run-up for bids with and without prosecuted insider trading, contrary to the arguments put forward by Keown and Pinkerton (1981). They find that the primary predictors of pre-bid run-up are news-media rumours and the existence of toeholds >50 per cent. The importance of news-media speculation as a mechanism by which private information becomes public is similarly found in studies such as Sanders and Zdanowicz (1992), Pound and Zeckhauser (1990) and Aitken and Czernkowski (1992). These studies find that up to 40 per cent of the pre-bid run-up can be explained by legal market anticipation following published rumours of potential consolidation between the target and acquirer.

Empirical evidence supporting the market anticipation theory is provided by Barclay and Holderness (1991) and Akhigbe et al. (2007), who find significant positive abnormal returns around the purchase of toehold stakes. Bris (2002) provides theoretical evidence that the acquisition of a toehold stake produces an information flow that can result in share price movements ahead of takeover announcements. This is consistent with the theoretical model of Ravid and Spiegel (1999), which shows that toehold purchases create rumours of an imminent takeover bid, resulting in run-up in the targets share price. Direct evidence regarding the contribution of toehold positions to the pre-bid run-up is mixed however, with Betton and Eckbo (2000) showing that a negative relationship exists between the size of the toehold and the pre-bid run-up. Conversely, Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) find that the greater is the toehold as a per cent of the targets shares, the higher is the pre-bid run-up.

One potential reason for the inconsistencies observed across previous studies is the lack of attention drawn to the timing of these toehold acquisitions. Previous studies have not differentiated between toeholds held for significant periods of time and those established shortly prior to the acquisition. Differences in the mix of both short- and long-term toeholds could result in differences in the impact of toeholds on run-up, as noted in a recent study by Betton et al. (2008). Their study analyses the implications for the price paid by the acquirer of taking toeholds within 40 days of the bid. They find targets that receive short-term takeovers experience run-up of 15 per cent, significantly higher than the 5 per cent for all other takeovers.

If Bris' (2002) argument that toeholds signal a revised probability of receiving a takeover bid to the market holds, then the timing of such an acquisition will be a significant determinant of the run-up.9 There are several mechanisms by which a short-term toehold could induce a pre-bid run-up. First, the upward-sloping supply curve for target shares will result in an increase in the targets share price due to the purchasing pressure of the bidder (Stulz, 1988). This problem will be especially pronounced for less liquid targets. Second, any large unexplained trades could trigger speculation that the firm is a takeover target. Evidence from Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) and Aitken and Czernkowski (1992) indicate that rumours have a significant impact on pre-bid run-up. Further, the information contained in substantial shareholder notices may also signal the intentions of the bidder to the market, triggering buying in anticipation of a takeover premium (Choi, 1991). Toeholds bought immediately prior to the bid should therefore have a larger signalling impact on the pre-bid run-up as compared to those toeholds that have been held for a longer period of time. These long-term toeholds will have incorporated information about the probability of a future takeover at the time of the toehold acquisition (Akhigbe et al., 2007), and as such it is expected that the price run-up immediately prior to the announcement will be insignificantly different from the case where no-toehold is purchased.

The current literature has not been able to offer a clear explanation for the well-documented abnormal price reactions to takeover announcements, with three potential explanations having been formulated, that of insider trading, market anticipation and the existence of rumours. This study confirms the role of market anticipation generated by media speculation as an important determinant of pre-bid price run-up and further examines the impact of toehold acquisitions and price-sensitive news announcements within a regulatory framework of continuous disclosure. If market anticipation is the cause of the documented pre-bid run-up in Australia, these elements will explain the pre-bid run-up.

3. Data

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

The data set of takeovers is obtained from the Reuters Connect 4 database, which provides a record of all deals involving ASX listed public companies from January 2000 to December 2009. Data collected from Connect 4 includes deal values, deal types and break fees. It also includes other relevant acquisition and accounting information. There are 852 takeover bids in this database for 668 unique target companies.

Stock trading information and firm level data are collected via the Reuters intra-day interface provided by the Securities Institute Research Centre of Asia Pacific (SIRCA). This data are captured in real time from the Australian Securities Exchange Integrated Trading System.

Toehold information has been collected manually from a number of sources. We collect this information from bidder statements, s.603 notifications ‘Becoming a substantial shareholder’, or from 671B ‘Change in substantial shareholding’ notices, which are analogous to the United States s.13(d) filings. A database comprising over 10 000 such changes has been constructed manually for the period 1999–2010. As soon as an investor has beneficial ownership of >5 per cent of a publically listed company, they are required to complete one of these notices within two business days of the acquisition.10 Given the dependence of our study on the timeliness of these filings, the ‘reporting lag’ of our sample was determined, with an average of 0.53 days. This lag is consistent with both the reporting requirements11 and the prompt reporting documented by Da Silva Rosa et al. (2005).12

As investors are not required to report holdings smaller than 5 per cent, toeholds smaller than this threshold are not captured in our data set.13 Of the target firms subject to takeover offers, 38 per cent contain pre-announcement purchases by the acquirer. News releases used to adjust announcement dates are manually collected from the Factiva database and cross referenced with ASX announcements. In order for an announcement date to be adjusted, both the acquirer and target must be named in the same release as a potential business combination. In such cases, the event date is brought forward to reflect the earlier release of the takeover rumour.

Of the initial 852 bids, any deal that represents a secondary bid for the same target firm, (either a competing or revised bid), is excluded from our sample to isolate the run-up effects of the first bid. We exclude 184 deals in this manner. A further 30 bids are removed as the bidder has pre-existing majority control via a toehold that is >50 per cent. Bids with more than 50 missing observations in the period (−250, 0) are removed due to the paucity of such data. This removes an additional 56 bids. Any bid with an announcement flagged by the ASX as price sensitive in the 30 days prior to the adjusted announcement date is also removed so as to narrow the possibility of confounding effects in the price run-up.14 This process results in the removal of an additional 132 observations. The final sample adjusted for missing data, multiple bids, existing control and sensitive announcements contains 450 takeover offers.

Table 1 describes the final sample of 450 target firms. Information regarding the share price, deal value, deal premium, market to book ratio, earnings and the news adjustment process are all provided. The mean (median) value of the sample of deals is $AU1.28 billion ($AU113 million) indicating that a sizable fraction of the deals announced are for small-to-medium tier capitalisation firms. Figures reporting the profitability of the sample of firms show average (median) earnings of approximately $AU62.38 million ($AU4.24 million) for takeover targets. The average premium of approximately 18 per cent over the defined sample period is broadly consistent with the 18 per cent found by King (2009) in Canada and the 28 per cent found by Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) in the United States.

Table 1. Characteristics of target firms
VariableMeanMedianStandard deviation
  1. This table provides descriptive statistics for the 450 target firms that form our final sample. Share price is reported as at 20 days prior to the takeover announcement. Deal value is the offer price multiplied by the number of shares to be purchased. Premium is the difference between the bid price and the price 20 days prior to the announcement of the bid. Market to book is a financial ratio comparing the deal value to the book value of net assets. EBIT is the earnings before interest and taxes and is taken from the last available annual report. Days news-adjusted reports the number of days that the announcement date has been modified due to rumours of a potential merger in the news media mentioning both the bidder and target.

Share price ($)2.730.947.50
Deal value ($ millions)1281.90113.458497.31
Premium (%)18.2816.1023.98
Market to book3.031.834.10
EBIT ($ millions)62.384.24547.74
Days news adjusted68.6911.00176.23

The pre-bid run-up caused by rumours of the bid is controlled using an adjustment process implemented by both Aitken and Czernkowski (1992) and King (2009). This process searches news sources for any rumour of an impending transaction that is publicly disclosed and includes the names of both the eventual acquirer and target. When such a rumour is identified, the event date is set to the earlier of the official announcement or the date of the first rumour to reflect the dissemination of this information. We search the Factiva database for publications regarding the listed takeovers in our sample up to one calendar year prior to the official announcement date. Of our sample of 450 announcements, the mean number of calendar days between the news-adjusted and formal announcement dates is 68.69 days across those announcements that were adjusted. This is a similar adjustment period to the 58 days reported by King (2009) for deals conducted on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the 59.21 days reported by Aitken and Czernkowski (1992) on the ASX.

Table 2 provides information about the acquisition patterns of toeholds in Australian deals between 2000 and 2009. The deals are divided into two categories: short-term toeholds, which occur when the bidder acquires an incremental toehold stake within 30 days of the official announcement date, and long-term toeholds, which represent all toeholds taken outside 30 days of the official announcement date. An acquirer that has an existing long-term toehold and increases their stake within 30 days of making a bid is treated as a short-term toehold, due to the additional information provided by the increased purchase of shares.15

Table 2. Toehold characteristics
 ObservationsMeanMedianStandard deviation
  1. This table contains descriptive statistics relating to both the average time that toeholds are held for and the average deal size. Short-Term toeholds are defined as those that are purchased within 30 days of the official announcement of the takeover bid. Long-Term toeholds are defined as those that are purchased outside of 30 days of the announcement of a takeover bid. Observations are the number of short- or long-term toeholds in our sample of 450 firms.

Holding period
Short-term (days)5210.26155.65
Long-term (days)118404.95367373.46
Deal size
Short-term ($M)521419.06104.003848.13
Long-term ($M)118489.0771.831252.35
No-toehold ($M)2801541.86135.5710378.00

Short-term toeholds are purchased on average up to 10 days prior to the bid, although the median of 1 day is evidence of frequent buying activity on the day before the formal announcement. In purchasing 1 day prior to the bid, acquirers are able to delay reporting their stake until after the bid has been made public. This deprives potential rivals of sufficient time to prepare competing bids, allowing firms to minimise the transmission of their intentions to the market. Long-term toeholds are held on average for just over a year. The mean of 404 days implies that these toeholds are often acquired with the intention of making a bid in the near future, either as an investment, to deter rival merger activity or as an option over anticipated future acquisition (Betton et al., 2009).

Table 2 shows that there are more than twice as many long-term toehold acquisitions than short-term toeholds in the sample. This finding may reflect the common use of standstill agreements at the start of negotiations, which prevents bidders from acquiring a stake during the period prior to the formal announcement (Bruner, 2004). The descriptive data on deal size presented in Table 2 illustrates that acquirers avoid toeholds in the largest companies. This is likely due to the costly nature of such a shareholding, and the risks associated with the disposition of such a stake in the event of deal failure (Betton et al., 2009).

Table 3 shows that over the 10 year sample 38 per cent of deals include an acquirer held pre-bid toehold stake. This figure is marginally higher than comparative empirical studies; however, the relative decline observed through time is consistent with the findings of Betton et al. (2009) in the United States.16 Despite the advantages of toeholds hypothesised by the literature, descriptive statistics show that the majority of Australian acquirers do not take a toehold. The advantages of acquiring a toehold include: cost advantages (Bishop, 1991), reducing price impact (Walkling, 1985) and the potential to deter rivals (Bulow et al., 1999). Whilst the literature documents a number of benefits from acquiring a toehold, the risks to deal negotiations stemming from the market activity involved in purchasing the common stock may overshadow the potential benefits.

Table 3. Toehold time series distribution
YearBidsShort-term (%)Long-term (%)Toeholds (%)
  1. This table documents the number and distribution of toehold bids within our sample on an annual basis. Bids are the number of takeover bids that were launched in each year. Short-term toeholds are the proportion of bids for that year where a toehold was acquired within 30 days of the announcement of the bid. Long-term toeholds are the proportion of bids in which a toehold stake was acquired more than 30 days prior to the announcement of the bid. Toeholds are the proportion of bids that had a non-zero toehold prior to the announcement of the bid.

20005016.032.048.0
2001529.634.644.2
20023023.323.346.6
2003449.138.647.7
20043613.927.741.6
20053411.714.726.4
20066412.518.731.2
2007646.228.134.3
20083312.130.342.4
2009437.011.618.6
Average4512.126.038.1

Table 3 reports the distribution of short- and long-term toeholds in our sample through time. To date, only one other study has examined the timing of toehold purchases. Betton et al. (2008) examine the impact of short-term toeholds on final acquisition price, with 90 per cent of their toehold sample being acquired over a period >6 months prior to the launching of a bid. The proportion of acquirers taking toeholds in Betton et al. (2008) is significantly lower than reported in this study. Additionally, in this study long-term acquisitions are found to account for over 69 per cent of all toehold activity. The apparent reluctance of firms to establish toeholds shortly prior to an acquisition across both samples highlights the perceived costs of such activity.17

Table 4 provides a breakdown of the size of toehold positions held by bidders. The majority of toehold positions held by short-term acquirers are clustered around 15–20 per cent of outstanding share capital. This clustering reflects regulations prohibiting firms from acquiring toeholds >20 per cent without formally announcing a takeover to the market.18 In the US market, where such ‘fair price’ provisions do not exist, Betton et al. (2009) report a clustering of both short-term and long-term toeholds around the 10 per cent level. The comparatively smaller size of short-term toeholds can also be partially attributed to the upward-sloping supply curve encountered by acquirers, increasing costs with toehold size (Walkling, 1985). We find long-term toeholds are on average larger, with 46 per cent of long-term toeholds exceeding 20 per cent of outstanding equity. The tendency for long-term toeholds to be >20 per cent is likely associated with the need to acquire a significant enough position to deter rivals (Bulow et al., 1999).

Table 4. Toeholds by size and type
Toehold (%)Short-termLong-term
  1. This table provides a breakdown of the size of toehold positions held by bidders in the sample. Short-term is the number of toeholds acquired in each size range within the 30 days prior to the takeover bid. Long-term is the number of toeholds acquired outside of 30 days from the announcement date.

0–584
5–1069
10–151019
15–202331
20–25213
25–50342
Total52118

4. Research design

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

Standard event study methodology is used to examine whether the timing of the toehold placement has an impact on the pre-bid price run-up. To limit the upward bias in the run-up driven by trading on rumours of the deal in the financial press, the event date is adjusted to reflect the earlier of the public announcement of the takeover, or rumour mentioning both the takeover target and the acquirer as a potential combination. The announcement of a toehold will not of itself necessitate an adjustment; however, it is possible that a toehold reported to the exchange results in a rumour of the potential takeover on the following day. In this case, the toehold is considered ‘short-term’. If, however, the toehold is taken after the first rumour, this is classified as a ‘no-toehold’ event. The determination of the toehold classification is only possible ex-post, with uninformed market participants unable to determine ex-ante if a toehold acquisition is going to be long-term or short-term in nature. This classification process is consistent with the previous work of Aitken and Czernkowski (1992) and Sanders and Zdanowicz (1992).

Abnormal returns are calculated for a window around the adjusted announcement date for all the firms in the sample. The pre-bid run-up is calculated by aggregating the daily excess returns from 30 days before the takeover announcement to the day before the announcement. Cumulative Abnormal Returns (CARs) per stock are calculated as follows:

  • display math(1)

Figure 1 plots the CARs for the official announcement date, the news-adjusted date and the announcement adjusted data set. The news-adjusted date considers the earlier of the rumour or announcement date as the event date. The announcement adjusted set additionally removes all takeovers that have a market sensitive announcement within the 30 days prior to the bid. Consistent with Aitken and Czernkowski (1992), media-published rumours are shown to account for over 20 per cent of the observed pre-bid run-up. Prior to any adjustment, run-up begins 23 days prior to the official announcement of the takeover, reaching almost 6 per cent on day −1. Once rumours in the market are controlled for, CARs become uniformly lower, amounting to just under 4.5 per cent on day −1. A further source of potential bias in the run-up is from price-sensitive announcements unrelated to the takeover. The additional removal of these from our sample accounts for a further 10 per cent of the observed pre-bid run-up. The pre-announcement run-up of 4–6 per cent is consistent with the reported pre-bid run-up in studies such as Sanders and Zdanowicz (1992) and King (2009) of 7.4–8.1 per cent.

image

Figure 1. News-adjusted returns. Displays the cumulative average abnormal returns for the entire sample. Official date indicates the event time relative to the public announcement of the bid. News-adjusted indicates the returns relative to the news-adjusted announcement date. News and Announcement adjusted reports the returns relative to the news-adjusted date after the removal of targets that had a price-sensitive news announcement in the 30 days prior to the announcement date.

Download figure to PowerPoint

Our analysis uses the news and announcement adjusted event dates to assess the impact of toehold timing on the pre-bid run-up. The impact of toeholds and their placement strategies are determined by performing a regression analysis with the following specification:

  • display math(2)

Where; Run-up is the CAR of stock i between day −30 and −1; Toehold is the proportion of the targets shares held by the acquirer immediately prior to the takeover bid; LT is a dummy variable that takes the value 1 if a long-term toehold was acquired in stock i and 0 otherwise; ST is a dummy variable that takes the value 1 if a short-term toehold was acquired and 0 otherwise; ln(Value) is a control variable for the target firm, being the natural log of stock i's market cap 20 days prior to day ‘0’; Turnover is the cumulative abnormal turnover in stock i, defined as the cumulative average daily volume for each target as a percentage of turnover in the benchmark period (−250, −100); Third Party is a dummy variable that equals 1 if a third party other than the bidder increases their substantial shareholding in stock i in the 30 days prior to the announcement, and 0 otherwise; ST*Toehold and LT*Toehold are interaction terms of the timing and size of the toehold. A fixed effects model is used to capture the industry and time variation in the sample. These results are reported in Table 5.

Table 5. Regression results: the determinants of pre-bid run-up
VariableModel 1Model 2Model 3Model 4Model 5
  1. *, ** and *** indicate significance at the 10, 5 and 1 per cent level respectively. This table presents results of a standard regression analysis used to examine the determinants of price run-up prior to the announcement of a takeover bid. The dependent variable, Run-up, is the average cumulative abnormal returns between day −30 and −1; Toehold is the proportion of target shares held by the acquirer immediately prior to the takeover bid; Long-Term Dummy and Short-Term Dummy are variables that take 1 if a long-term (short-term toehold) was acquired in stock i and 0 otherwise. The base case is no-toehold; log(Value) is the natural log of the market cap of stock i as at day −1; Turnover is the cumulative abnormal turnover in stock i as a percentage of ‘clean period’ (−250, −100) turnover; Third Party is a dummy variable that takes 1 if a third party increases their substantial shareholding in stock i in the 30 days prior to the announcement and 0 otherwise; Long-Term*Toehold and Short-Term*Toehold are variables that indicate the percentage of stock i shares owned by the bidder on the date of announcement. Standard Errors are reported in brackets.

Intercept0.038 (0.011)***0.033 (0.010)***0.030 (0.011)*−0.113 (0.078)−0.151 (0.086)
Toehold0.018 (0.043)0.047 (0.047)−0.024 (0.031)
Long-term−0.021 (0.026)−0.033 (0.023)−0.029 (0.030)−0.103 (0.040)
Short-term0.116 (0.017)***0.113 (0.027)***0.104 (0.039)***0.103 (0.040)**
ln (value)0.008 (0.004)*0.010 (0.004)**
Turnover0.015 (0.005)***0.014 (0.005)***
Third party−0.001 (0.080)−0.001 (0.018)
Long-term*toehold0.051 (0.690)0.032 (0.099)
Short-term*toehold0.012 (0.070)0.007 (0.171)
Sample size, N450450450450450
Adjusted R20.0180.0430.0580.0780.093
Yearly fixed effectsYes

Whilst a large body of empirical literature documents the post-takeover announcement effects of bid characteristics such as; whether the offer is in cash or stock, if the bidder is a public or private company, and whether the bid was subsequently consummated, these characteristics will only become public knowledge after the announcement of the bid. As we are considering the run-up prior to the takeover announcement, we have only considered factors contemporaneous with the period prior to the takeover bid.

5. Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

The results presented in Figure 2 show the target run-up after controlling for toehold timing. These results provide preliminary evidence that a significant proportion of the target run-up can be explained by considering the recent acquisition of toehold shares. Figure 2 shows that takeovers with established long-term toeholds without confounding information announcements have on average a 2.25 per cent run-up in the 30 days leading up to the first rumour or announcement of a bid. This is found to be statistically insignificant from 0 at the 5 per cent level.19 Choi (1991) argues that the acquisition of a toehold, which results in a positive valuation effect, reflects investors' perception of an increased probability of a subsequent takeover. As the control premium is largely impounded at the time of the acquisition of the toehold, the insignificant run-up observed in this period is consistent with minimal information leakage prior to the announcement of the bid.

image

Figure 2. Toehold adjusted returns. Outlines of the cumulative average abnormal returns by toehold type. Day 0 is the news and announcement adjusted event date. Long-term indicates stocks where a toehold was acquired more than 30 days prior to the announcement. Short-term indicates toeholds that were acquired within 30 days of the takeover announcement. No-toehold indicates those targets where the bidder did not acquire any shares prior to the takeover announcement.

Download figure to PowerPoint

Figure 2 shows a significant run-up for short-term toeholds in the 30 days prior to the first rumour or announcement of a takeover bid. This run-up of approximately 15 per cent is found to be statistically significant at the 1 per cent level. Consistent with the theoretical predictions of Bris (2002), these results indicate that the acquisition of a toehold in the target is associated with increased abnormal returns. Whilst it is not possible to disentangle the effects of market anticipation and the market impact costs of the toehold acquisition, the two are intrinsically related. Market participants attempting to identify takeover targets may use unusual price and volume movements to inform their purchasing behaviour (Choi, 1991). If this is the case, large trading volume will drive market anticipation, which will in turn drive additional trading volume. This circularity describes the mechanism by which toehold activity can cause prices to anticipate takeovers.

Table 5 presents the results of the regression analysis using different model specifications. There are several interesting results. First, Model 1 shows that the size of the toehold alone cannot explain the variation in the run-up. This is consistent with the lack of consensus in the empirical literature regarding the impact of toehold size on the pre-bid run-up. Second, Models 2–5 demonstrate that the acquisition of toeholds shortly prior to the announcement of a takeover are associated with significantly increased price run-up.20 Consistent with the findings of Betton et al. (2008) short-term toeholds are associated with larger pre-takeover run-ups relative to long-term and no-toehold positions. This increased run-up provides support for the theoretical predictions of Bris (2002) that toehold activity can signal a bid to the market, generating market anticipation.

Whilst short-term toeholds have a significant and positive impact on the run-up, the presence of existing long-term toeholds is not significantly related to the run-up. If toeholds, upon being acquired, cause investors to revise their expectations of a takeover, then the run-up may have already occurred around the placement of the toehold. Evidence consistent with this proposition is presented in the following section.

Examining the control variables, the measure of abnormal turnover reported in Table 5 is positive and highly significant across all model specifications. This finding suggests a positive association between increased market activity and abnormal pre-bid price increases. The market anticipation hypothesis proposed by Jensen and Ruback (1983) posits that traders predicting a takeover bid will buy in anticipation of receiving the takeover premium. This buying activity will also increase the volume of shares traded, which is supported by our results. Consistent with previous studies, the coefficient on the target value variable is positive and significant, demonstrating that larger target firms have a greater pre-bid share price run-up.

Finally, the interaction terms in Table 5 show that the size of the toehold, with respect to the proximity of its placement to the announcement date, does not have a statistically significant impact on the size of the run-up. This result demonstrates that the majority of the impact toeholds have on the run-up lies not in their size, but rather in the information conveyed by their purchase. This finding provides an interesting and novel explanation to reconcile the lack of agreement that exists in the literature regarding the impact of toehold size on the run-up.

6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

Not all acquisitions of toeholds, or increases in the size of existing toeholds, are followed by a takeover bid. To assess whether the price run-up prior to the announcement of an acquisition involving a toehold is a function of insiders using their privileged position to profit, or alternately the average reaction to the establishment of such a position, we construct a matched sample of toehold stakes that are not followed by a takeover bid. This allows us to directly observe the impact of the toehold acquisition, free of the look-ahead bias inherent in only analysing toehold acquisitions followed by takeover bids.21

A matched sample stock is identified for each of the short-term toehold acquisitions in our sample by minimising Distance in the following expression, where the factors refer to the market value of shares outstanding and the size of the toehold acquisition:

  • display math(3)

The absolute difference between each short-term stocks factors and the set of potential matched samples are computed, and weighted by the size of the sample and matched factors. Each matched stock is chosen without replacement by minimising the sum of the two factors.22 The matching of the size of the toehold is considered especially important due to the unusually large size of the toehold acquisitions, as reported in Table 4. A regression analysis is used to examine the determinants of the reactions to the toehold acquisitions, as follows:

  • display math(4)

Where CAR(x, y) is the cumulative abnormal return of stock i between x and y days, value refers to the market value of firm i's shares, Toehold indicates the size of the toehold, Turnover is the cumulative abnormal turnover of stock i between x and y days, and Matched is a dummy variable that takes a value of 1 to indicate that the stock is part of the matched sample, and 0 if it is part of the short-term toehold sample.

Table 6 reports the returns around toehold acquisitions prior to the announcement of a takeover, vis-à-vis the returns with no subsequent takeover announcement. As the median short-term holding period (reported in Table 2) is only 1 day before the takeover announcement we specifically consider the returns up until the public announcement of the toehold. This exercise isolates the run-up and announcement period from the confounding impacts of the takeover announcement itself.

Table 6. Matched sample toehold returns
Sample periodShort-term toeholdsMatched sampleDifference
  1. *, ** and *** indicate significance at the 10, 5 and 1 per cent level respectively. Table 6 outlines the cumulative average abnormal returns for a sample of 52 matched toehold acquisitions. Each short-term toehold in our sample was matched by firm size and toehold size to another change in substantial shareholding that was not followed by a takeover bid within the subsequent year. The event day is the public announcement of the acquisition of the toehold stake. All cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) are reported in percentages.

CAR (−30, 0)0.06490.07660.0117
CAR (−15, 0)0.05840.0549−0.0035
CAR (−10, 0)0.05690.0393−0.0176
CAR (−5, 0)0.02860.04050.0119

Table 6 compares the CARs for the short-term and matched samples. Both samples exhibit similar pre-announcement patterns, with positive pre-event CARs of 6.5–7.5 per cent for the 30-day window preceding the acquisition of the toehold. The difference reported between the short-term toeholds and the matched samples are not significant at the 5 per cent level for any of the event windows examined. Furthermore, the size of the observed abnormal return is comparable to results presented in Akhigbe et al. (2007), with toehold targets which were not subject to takeovers exhibiting returns of 2.5 per cent, whilst targets acquired within 1 year experienced returns of 9.5 per cent, over a comparable 20-day period.

To further examine the significance of the previous result a regression analysis is performed across the two samples. The results reported in Table 7 show that the ‘matched’ dummy variable is insignificantly different from zero in all specifications. This suggests that the run-up in the target's share price, where short-term toeholds have been established, is not the result of insiders using their position to trade ahead of the takeover announcement. Rather it appears to be due to the price discovery that occurs around the acquisition of toeholds. The fact that the returns between the matched samples are statistically indistinguishable means that prior conclusions attributing price run-up to insiders may be an overstated concern.

Table 7. Matched sample toehold returns
VariableCAR (−30, 0)CAR (−15, 0)CAR (−10, 0)CAR (−5, 0)
  1. *, ** and *** indicate significance at the 10, 5 and 1 per cent level respectively. Table 7 provides the results of a standard regression analysis for a matched sample of 52 toehold acquisitions. Each short-term toehold was matched by firm size, toehold size and share price to another change in substantial shareholding that was not followed by a takeover bid within the subsequent year. The dependent variable is the average CAR between day x and y; ln(Value) is the natural log of the market cap of stock i as at day −1; Turnover is the cumulative abnormal turnover in stock i as a percentage of ‘clean period’ (−250, −100) turnover; Toehold is the proportion of shares acquired in the present notification, in percentage of shares outstanding; Matched Sample is a dummy variable that takes 1 if the observation is part of the matched sample and 0 if the observation is part of the short-term toehold sample. Standard errors are reported in brackets. CAR, cumulative abnormal returns.

Intercept0.3259 (0.2736)0.2404 (0.2145)0.2837 (0.1437)*0.2080 (0.1031)**
ln (value)−0.0153 (0.0141)−0.0124 (0.0110)−0.0126 (0.0074)*−0.0108 (0.0053)**
Toehold %0.0026 (0.0039)0.0040 (0.0030)0.0015 (0.0020)0.0023 (0.0015)
Turnover0.0011 (0.0008)0.0013 (0.0006)**0.0004 (0.0004)0.0001 (0.0003)
Matched sample−0.0073 (0.0604)−0.0063 (0.0472)−0.0307 (0.0317)0.0144 (0.0228)
Sample size, N104104104104
Adjusted R20.04870.09030.06650.0934

7. Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References

This study documents and analyses the abnormal price run-up of 450 Australian takeover targets for a 10 year trading period. We extend the existing literature by identifying and controlling for three potential causes of pre-bid run-up: media speculation, price-sensitive announcements and toehold acquisitions by the bidder. We show that the activity generated from these three areas explains a significant proportion of the pre-bid share price run-up. We specifically assess how the timing of the acquisition of a toehold stake affects the price run-up and show that takeover bids with toeholds acquired shortly before the takeover announcement are associated with significantly larger share price run-ups. We use a matched sample to demonstrate that the share price run-ups documented for our short-term targets also exist for other toehold acquisitions that are not followed by takeover announcements, suggesting they are driven by the toehold acquisition process itself.

We provide new evidence on the impact of the toehold timing decision, which potentially resolves previous inconsistencies in the literature regarding the impact of toeholds on pre-bid run-up. This evidence suggests the timing of the toehold significantly affects the pre-bid price behaviour in the target firm such that we find the absence of any such toehold is associated with no significant run-up.

In the light of this evidence previous studies attributing the price run-up to cases of insider trading appear to over-state the case. Whilst we cannot rule out the possibility that insiders traded prior to any individual takeover event, we are able to demonstrate that their existence is not necessary to induce an increase in the targets share price, as has previously been claimed. However, as insider trading is by nature surreptitious, without prima facie evidence on the trading activity of actual insiders, it is not possible to rule out arguments such as that proposed by Chakravarty (2001), that insiders' trade stealthily to conceal their trades. If insiders' actively try to conceal their trades for fear of prosecution, it is possible that they trade more frequently when they observe abnormal price and volume movements generated by toehold acquisitions or by market rumours. However, without data describing the trades of prosecuted insiders, it is extremely difficult to ascertain if this behaviour is occurring. Despite this potential limitation, our research suggests that almost all of the pre-bid run-up that has previously been attributed to insider trading can be explained by legal factors associated with market anticipation.

An interesting feature of our data set is that a significant number of toeholds positions exceed the current threshold level of 20 per cent ownership. Evidence from jurisdictions with higher limits suggest no obvious adverse effects in the takeover market, which has led some commentators to call for reforms to this limit in Australia. The substantial shareholder data set used in this study could be further used to gain some valuable insights into the potential impacts of changes to the takeover threshold ceiling.

  1. 1

    ‘Insider Trading Rife in Australia’, The Australian, 20 February 2008, Michael Sainsbury.

  2. 2

    Toeholds are pre-bid acquisition stakes in the target firm, for further explanation see Bruner (2004).

  3. 3

    Illegal insider trading, is defined by section 1002G(2) of the Corporations Act, 2001 (Cth) as the ‘profitable trading in securities by a person with material non-public information’.

  4. 4

    These regulations mandate that any price-sensitive information be released to the market as soon as companies become aware of it. For further information on the institutional detail of the Australian market see Aitken et al. (2005), Frino and Oetomo (2005) and Frino and McKenzie (2002).

  5. 5

    See, for example, the Foresight Driver Review being undertaken by the Financial Services Authority in the UK.

  6. 6

    See Keown and Pinkerton (1981), Betton and Eckbo (2000) and King (2009).

  7. 7

    Regulatory exchanges across the world have adopted this form of analysis to examine the degree of market cleanliness. For example, in the FSA ‘Measurement of Market Cleanliness’ publication, the pre-bid run-up is examined to show the extent of insider trading in the marketplace (Dubow and Monteiro, 2006).

  8. 8

    Merger waves or ‘bubbles of financial activity’ as referred to by Brealey and Myers (1996) are depicted in a broad sample of studies across different regions. This can be a source of profit for arbitrageurs and other sophisticated investors if there are perceived trends (Mitchell and Pulvino, 2001).

  9. 9

    Even smaller blocking stakes reveal the potential for competition amongst bidders, resulting in a higher proportion of gains retained by the target (Betton et al., 2008).

  10. 10

    This prompt disclosure differs significantly from the comparable US Schedule 13D filings, which are required to be submitted within 10 days, with acquirers able to continue purchasing shares during this 10 day period.

  11. 11

    The Financial Services Reform Act, 2001 (Cth), effective as of the 11 March 2002, imposes significant penalties for non-compliance with the continuous disclosure regime.

  12. 12

    In a sample of 5213 substantial shareholding notices between 1996 and 1999 a mean lag of 2.4 calendar days was documented. This is consistent with two business days (given the potential for weekends and public-holidays) and was also prior to the introduction of the continuous disclosure regulations.

  13. 13

    There were 12 such observations in our dataset, with toeholds ranging between 0.43 and 4.9 per cent.

  14. 14

    We additionally perform a robustness test for the possibility that the announcement effect may not be due to the toehold but rather to the release of the price-sensitive news by constructing dummy variables capturing the release of news 2, 5, 10 and 30 days prior to the takeover event. Our results are qualitatively similar to those reported. Results of this analysis are available upon request.

  15. 15

    There are 24 such takeovers in our data set that have been categorised as ‘short-term’.

  16. 16

    Jarrell and Poulsen (1989) report that 58 per cent of US bidders take toeholds, Betton et al. (2009) report 13 per cent in a later sample, and King (2009) finds 19 per cent in Canada.

  17. 17

    Bris (2002) argues that short-term toeholds act as a signal to the market of the impending bid, increasing the eventual takeover premium.

  18. 18

    Section 615 of the Corporations Act, 2001 (Cth) prohibits an individual or company from exceeding 20 per cent share ownership without launching a full takeover bid for all remaining shares. Section 618 provides an exception for ‘creeping’ takeovers, whereby an acquirer may increase their shareholding above the 20 per cent level in 3 per cent increments every 6 months without launching a full takeover bid.

  19. 19

    Tests for significance have been omitted for brevity and are available upon request.

  20. 20

    The inclusion of a thin-trading bias variable, as constructed in Fidrmuc et al. (2006) does not significantly alter the results presented.

  21. 21

    The authors thank the referee for suggesting this method of inquiry.

  22. 22

    Significance tests confirm that there is no significant difference between the samples across the specified criteria. For brevity these results have not been included and are available on request.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Literature review and hypothesis development
  5. 3. Data
  6. 4. Research design
  7. 5. Results
  8. 6. Robustness – the impact of toehold acquisitions
  9. 7. Conclusions
  10. References