Investing

Activists Pick Up the Pace Into Year End, Third Point, Impactive Reveal New Stakes

If 2022 has been any indication, 2023 could be a big year for activists. Several shareholder activists last week launched new campaigns or unveiled the latest moves in existing ones as 2022 draws to a close and activity rebound toward pre-pandemic levels.

The rebound carried on from the third quarter, which Lazard analysts said represented the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year elevated activity. It contributed to 2022 YTD activity levels already approaching the full-year 2021 levels. There were 171 campaigns launched globally in the first three quarters of 2022—roughly equal to the number launched in all of 2021. Lazard noted recent market volatility as attracting investors looking to buy cheap and drive new ways to increase shareholder value.

Activist investors buy company stakes in hopes of influencing and pressuring the management and board to make specific changes to boost company values. Often the activists target particular parts of a company for sale or spinoff to shareholders or to replace management.

On Thursday, Dan Leob’s Third Point LLC filed a 13D form with the SEC disclosing ownership of 13.8 million Bath & Body Works, Inc. ( shares, or 6.02% of the company. The fund pushed the company to refresh its board and reduce management compensation in favor of shareholder returns.

Bath & Body shares are down about 40% this year.

In the 13D filing, Third Point questioned “the adequacy of current governance policies” at Bath & Body (US:BBWI). The firm, run by high profile activist Dan Loeb, specifically criticized what he described as the company’s excessive management compensation. Loeb called executive awards “untethered to important performance metrics” and said he wants a board refresh.

“However, in the event no satisfactory resolution is reached, (Third Point) reserves the right to seek changes in board composition and take other measures at or before the company’s next annual meeting,” it wrote in its filing.

Last week Impactive Capital unveiled a five percent WEX (US:WEX) stake and said it would discuss its plans to improve performance with management, including a possible sale.

Impactive’s move is hedged to some extent by the payment processing and information management services firm’s recent decision to hike its share buyback program to $650 million through 202 from $150 million through 2026.

WEX shares are up 16% year to date.

Glen Welling’s Engaged Capital unveiled a 6.5% stake in rent-to-own firm Rent-A-Center on Monday. Welling said in his filing that the shares, which fell 48% through last Friday, were. are undervalued.

Shares of Rent-A-Center on Monday rose after the news.

In October, Rent-A-Center tapped Fahmi Karam, currently a chief financial officer of Santander Consumer USA, as its new CFO, giving some fresh eyes to the C-suite. Karam will no doubt work closely with Christopher Hetrick, an Engaged employee who also is a Rent-A-Center director.

Rent-A-Center (US:RCII) shares are down 505 through Tuesday’s close.

Several activists also updated ongoing campaigns via filings disclosing further buying or announcing the next step against their target.

Legion Partners refuses to give up on Genesco (US:GCO). The fund filed its thirteenth amendment to its original 13D filing on Friday. The amendment revealed some options trading details relevant to Legion’s stake but did not materially alter its holdings.

The activist/company relationship is long; in July 2021, Legion unsuccessfully ran a full slate of nine directors to unseat the board at the apparel and shoemaker when shareholders reelected all management nominees.

Another frustrated shareholder, Hestia, which claims it is not an activist, nonetheless said last week it intends to nominate a majority slate of director candidates, including a highly qualified proposed interim chief executive at mail technology firm Pitney Bowes (US:PBI).

Hestia wrote, “we repeatedly emphasized that the company’s cash-generating segments SendTech and Presort are exceptional businesses that can underpin a lasting turnaround once operated more efficiently and are better aligned with strategic opportunities in their industries.” The letter outlined specifics of Hestia’s failed attempts to communicate with the company. Last month, before filing the 13D, it proposed adding three independent directors at Pitney to no avail.

Pitney shares are off 37% year to date.

This article originally appeared on Fintel

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