Activist hedge funds introduced 89 projects in 2021. Here’s how they fared

Jeffrey Smith, ceo and primary financial investment officer at Starboard Value LP.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

2021 was a hectic year for activist funds, with significant financiers consisting of Starboard Value, JANA Partners and Carl Icahn promoting significant modification at a variety of business.

In all, activist investors started 89 projects in 2015 in a variety of sectors, consisting of infotech and customer discretionary. These financiers likewise utilized various approaches to enhance results for investors, consisting of waging projects in spite of owning less than 5% of a business’s typical stock. This is referred to as “under the threshold” advocacy.

Here’s a look at how 2021 formed up for activist funds.

Annual Shareholder Activism

Total Activism 2021 2020
Number of Campaigns8989
Average Market Cap$12.3 billion$21.0 billion
$ purchased New Filings$20.9 billion$18.7 billion

13D Activism in 2021 and 2020

Year 2021 2020
Number of Campaigns4148
Average Market Cap$4.8 billion$2.9 billion
$ purchased New Filings$10.5 billion$10.5 billion
Average % Ownership7.87%9.02%

Non 13-D Activism (or Under the Threshold Activism)

Year 2021 2020
Number of Campaigns4841
Average Market Cap$18.9 billion$42.2 billion
$ purchased New Filings$10.4 billion$8.2 billion
Average % Ownership2.23%0.47%

Behind the numbers

Total advocacy: Total advocacy stayed incredibly constant from 2020 to 2021. In both years there were an overall of 89 brand-new projects. This continues to be well listed below the pre-Covid years (102 in 2019 and 113 in 2018). We anticipate that as Covid subsides, individuals will return to work in-person and things start to go back to typical, advocacy will likewise go back to its old levels.

What was special about 2021, nevertheless, is that it was the very first year given that we started covering “under the threshold” (or UTT) advocacy in 2014 that the variety of UTT scenarios surpassed the variety of 13D scenarios. There were 41 product 13D projects and 48 UTT projects versus 48 product 13D projects and 41 UTT projects in 2020. We think this shows 2 main points: (i) activists significantly having the ability to be more reliable with lower portion holdings and (ii) activists utilizing swaps and derivatives to prevent 13D requirements while surpassing 5% financial direct exposure.

Since 2017, the variety of 13D filings has actually reduced each year with only 41 brand-new activist 13D filings in 2021, compared to 48 in 2020, 61 in 2019, 65 in 2018 and 71 in 2017. While there continues to be a drop off in the variety of 13D projects, the typical market capitalization for targeted business is the greatest it’s been given that 2015. Moreover, in spite of less 13D filings, the quantity of overall dollars purchased brand-new 13D projects ($10.5 billion) is approximately the exact same for the 41 such filings from in 2015 as it is for the 48 13D filings in 2020. Both years substantially surpass the $8.8 billion purchased the 61 13D filings in 2019.

The variety of UTT projects in 2021 went back to its 2018 level of 48 engagements after being stagnant with 41 engagements in 2020 and 2019. While the overall dollars purchased brand-new UTT filings in 2021 increased by 27% from $8.2 billion in 2020 to $10.4 billion in 2021, this is still far listed below the $17.7 billion of 2018.

Activist financiers: While we are still residing in a worldwide pandemic, the activist financier base is appearing like 2020 with the reemergence of a couple of significant financiers. For beginners, Elliott Management and Starboard were both amongst the most active in 2021, although somewhat less so compared to the previous year. Elliott had 7 projects in 2021 versus 9 in 2020, and Starboard had 7 projects in 2021 versus 8 in 2020. Also, amongst the most active was JANA Partners with 7 projects in 2021, versus just one for 2020. Carl Icahn likewise got with 4 projects for 2021 versus 2 in 2020. We are likewise seeing consistency with 2020 with concerns to the range in the 13D filer base, with 34 special filers in 2021 and 33 special filers in 2020, versus 49 special filers in 2019. This continues to make good sense since when a technique ends up being significantly more difficult, as advocacy has due to Covid, usually financiers who are using advocacy as a core method will continue utilizing it.

Industries: The leading 4 markets targeted in 2021 were: (1) Information Technology, (2) Consumer Discretionary, (3) Financials and (4) Health Care, and these markets comprised 68.54% of all advocacy in 2021. In 2020, the leading 4 markets targeted were (i) Consumer Discretionary, (ii) Information Technology, (iii) Health Care and (iv) Industrials, the 4 of which consisted of 56.18% of all 2020 advocacy. Industrials left the leading 4 by going from 10 engagements (11%) to 5 engagements (6%) and was re-placed by Financials, which went from 6 engagements (7%) in 2020 to 13 engagements (15%) in 2021. Moreover, this is the very first time given that 2016 that Information Technology gone beyond Consumer Discretionary as the most targeted market. One other significant modification was Energy reducing from 8 projects in 2020 to just 2 in 2021.

Outcomes: Activists have actually been fairly on par with the outcomes of their projects in 2021 versus 2020 based upon the 40 13D and UTT projects in 2021 that have actually been chosen (omitting the 38 pending, 9 withdrawals and the 2 projects where the activist did not take any particular activist step). The portion of settlements (68% in 2021 versus 62% this time in 2015), complete wins (3% in 2021 versus 4% this time in 2015) and losses (30% in 2021 versus 22% this time in 2015) stayed relatively constant.

A take a look at the upgraded 2020 information (which is more total than 2021 information due to numerous pending 2021 engagements), reveals a striking discovery. In 2020, 68% of 13D engagements settled versus 38% of UTT scenarios. Moreover, just 18% of 2020 chose 13D scenarios have actually led to a loss versus 34% of chosen 2020 UTT projects while 15% of 13D engagements have actually led to a complete or partial win versus 28% of UTT scenarios. Moreover, this follows the aggregate variety of 13D and UTT projects in between 2014 and 2020.

Ken Squire is the creator and president of 13D Monitor, an institutional research study service on investor advocacy, and the creator and portfolio supervisor of the 13D Activist Fund, a shared fund that buys a portfolio of activist 13D financial investments.


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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