In In Re Appraisal of PetSmart, Inc., C.A. No. 10782-VCS (Del. Ch. May 26, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed in a statutory appraisal proceeding that the fair value of the shares of common stock of PetSmart, Inc. (“PetSmart” or the “Respondent”) at the time of its going-private merger transaction was the deal price of $83 per share. The Court reached this conclusion after thoroughly examining and ultimately rejecting the use of the discounted cash flow (“DCF”) analysis to determine fair value as proposed by a group of plaintiff former stockholders of PetSmart (the “Petitioners”).
In determining the fair value of stock of a privately held corporation at the time of a cash-out merger in connection with an appraisal action by minority stockholders—where one of the minority stockholders’ experts proffered a fair value greater than eight times that provided by the company’s expert—the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the valuation method used by the company’s expert was unreliable. The Court held that in this case the discounted cash flow analysis is the most reliable indicator of fair value because (1) the company’s stock is not publicly traded, (2) historical sales of stock are not reliable indicators of fair value, and (3) no comparable company valuation exists.
In In Re Appraisal of Dell, C.A. No. 9322-VCL, (Del. Ch. May 31, 2016), stockholders of Dell Inc. (“Dell”) sought appraisal of their shares in connection with Dell’s 2013 “go-private” merger. Vice Chancellor Laster of the Delaware Court of Chancery held that the fair value of the Dell’s common stock at the effective time of the merger was $17.62, approximately a 28% premium over the final merger consideration of $13.75 per share. In making its determination, the court rejected Dell’s contention that the negotiated merger consideration was the best evidence of Dell’s fair value and held that the Dell was sold for too little and that the concept of fair value under Delaware law is not equivalent to the economic concept of fair market value.
Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP v. BMC Software, Inc. concerns an appraisal proceeding under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in which the Chancery Court found that the deal price generated by the market through a thorough and vigorous sales process was the best indication of fair value.
On September 13, 2013, the petitioners, Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP (together, “Merion”), filed a Verified Petition for Appraisal of Stock pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 262 (the “Appraisal Statute”) against respondent, BMC Software, Inc. (“BMC”). The action stemmed from a merger pursuant to which BMC’s stockholders were cashed out at a price of $46.25 per share (the “Merger”). Merion (who the court noted are “arbitrageurs who bought, not into an ongoing concern, but instead into this lawsuit”) owned 7,629,100 shares of BMC common stock. The Court presided over a four day trial in this matter, at which Merion presented expert testimony claiming that the stock was undervalued and BMC presented expert testimony claiming that the Merger price actually exceeded fair value.
Merlin Partners LP v. AutoInfo, Inc., C.A. No. 8509-VCN (Del. Ch. April 30, 2015) (Noble, V.C.) concerns an appraisal proceeding under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in which the Chancery Court found that, where there was a strong sale and negotiation process, and there were no reliable cash flow projections from which to make a discounted cash flow analysis and there were no sales of comparably sized companies in the same business, the price received in the merger was the best indication of fair value at the time of the merger.
Petitioners were former common stockholders of Respondent, AutoInfo, Inc. (“AutoInfo”) who exercised their appraisal rights in connection with AutoInfo’s merger with Comvest Partners (“Comvest”) at a price of $1.05 per AutoInfo share. AutoInfo was struggling financially and had begun a sale process in 2011 using an investment bank, Stephens Inc. (“Stephens”), which had long experience in the applicable industry, transportation. As part of the process, Stephens asked AutoInfo’s management to prepare five year financial projections that were “optimistic” to be used to market AutoInfo. Management had never prepared similar projections before and was doubtful of the validity of the results.
In this Chancery Court decision, VC Laster examined damages owing to plaintiffs for claims of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties of care and loyalty in connection with the sale of a partnership’s assets. The plaintiffs, partners in a D.C. partnership, had proved at trial that the sale by the majority partners (U.S. Cellular) to a related party was not entirely fair to them, as minority holders.
On the breach of contract claim, VC Laster found that defendants had breached a confidentiality provision in the partnership agreement by sharing confidential information regarding the partnership with a valuation firm, for the purposes of obtaining a valuation for the sale transaction. Notwithstanding the breach, only nominal damages were awarded as plaintiffs failed to show proof of actual injury from the breach. Among other facts, the Count highlighted that the confidentiality provision in the partnership agreement could have been waived by the majority partners.