Swiss specialty chemicals company Clariant AG (CLZNY) announced that it had hired Goldman Sachs Group (GS) to help it fend off an activist group that opposes its proposed merger with U.S. rival Huntsman Corp. (HUN) .
"We can confirm that we have retained Goldman Sachs as an additional adviser in relation to the investment, the positions taken and demands made by White Tale," a Clariant spokesperson said Monday, according to Reuters.
White Tale is an activist investment group with a more than 10% stake in Clariant.
Huntsman and Clariant shares remained unchanged in premarket trading Monday.
Earlier this month Keith Meister, through his hedge fund Corvex Management LP and 40 North Latitude Master Fund Ltd., the investment firm run by David Winter and David Millstone said they had a 7.2% stake in Clariant, through a holding company called White Tale Holdings LP. White Tale is now Clariant's largest shareholder. Several days later they said their stake had grown above 10%.
The merger, is, "well on track," according to Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann, speaking last week to analysts after the company's earnings report.
"We started already very closely after the announcement and when we came back from the first two weeks roadshow. We have now 35 to 40 teams with more than 100 people from each company working on different kinds of work streams, cost synergies, or the operating model or other issues before. It's a different process and in this process, we are well on track," he added.
But the activists said the merger of the two chemical companies has "no strategic rationale" and added that, on the contrary, it is "a complete reversal of the company's longstanding strategy of becoming a pure-play specialty chemicals company."
"We believe that the proposed merger significantly undervalues Clariant's shares and that far more value could be created for shareholders through any number of alternative transactions," the investors said, in a statement.
Despite being dubbed a merger of equals, Clariant would, in fact, be acquiring its U.S. peer since the Pratteln, Switzerland-based chemicals maker ended up with 52% of its counterpart from Woodlands, Texas.
But the tie-up was nonetheless widely seen as a tax inversion by another name, on the part of Huntsman, which would have the global operational hub in the U.S. and provide the CEO of the combined company, while Clariant would take the chairman's role and provide the corporate headquarters.
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