AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors on Thursday pressed ahead with a second lawsuit seeking to oust the chairman of Dutch paints group Akzo Nobel over his rejection of a 26.3 billion euro ($30 billion) takeover proposal from U.S. group PPG Industries.
Elliott, the largest Akzo investor with a 9.5 percent stake, was pursuing the case even after Akzo said on Tuesday that 70-year old Chairman Antony Burgmans would step down when his term expires next April.
That will be too late for Elliott which is engaged in an increasingly bitter fight against Burgmans.
Akzo and Pittsburgh-based PPG are in a six-month compulsory cooling off period which expires in December.
Some analysts believe the departure of the two leading opponents of a deal, after Chief Executive Ton Buechner announced his immediate resignation on July 19 due to health reasons, could open the door for talks.
In a preliminary ruling in May, Amsterdam’s Enterprise Chamber rejected Elliott’s bid to compel Akzo to convene an extraordinary meeting of shareholders to vote on dismissing Burgmans, saying it was an attempt to wrest control of the company’s strategic direction from the board.
Buechner’s sudden departure left his successor, relatively new chemicals division chief Thierry Vanlancker, to deliver higher sales and margins promised when the Dutch paintmaker fended off PPG’s takeover attempt.
Akzo’s second quarter results, announced on Tuesday, missed expectations. The company’s shares traded at 75.57 euros on Thursday morning, far below PPG’s final cash and share proposal of around 95 euros made in April.
Akzo said that shareholders would have their say at an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 8, but Elliott responded furiously, saying Akzo had chosen “yet again to flout fundamental shareholder rights” by not allowing a vote on Burgmans too.
On Thursday, the court will hear arguments by Elliott and York Capital Management, which is supporting the suit. They are seeking a summary ruling by the judges to call an extraordinary shareholders meeting to vote on Burgmans’ position.
Akzo would present counter arguments and a ruling was expected within two weeks.