Photographer: Adrian Moser/Bloomberg

Clariant Said to Be Targeted by Activist Hedge Fund Corvex

  • Corvex said to build stake above 3% disclosure threshold
  • Activist investor said to oppose Clariant deal with Huntsman

Activist hedge fund Corvex Management has built a stake in Clariant AG in a move designed to undo the Swiss chemicals maker’s $6.4 billion planned takeover of Huntsman Corp., according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Corvex, which has built a stake in Clariant that exceeds the disclosure threshold of 3 percent, plans to push the company to explore alternatives to the deal including a potential sale, said the people, who asked not to be named because the situation is private.

The activist investor believes the Huntsman acquisition, which was championed by Clariant Chief Executive Officer Hariolf Kottmann, lacks strategic rationale, the people said.

A representative for Muttenz, Switzerland-based Clariant had no immediate comment, while Corvex couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Clariant agreed to buy Texas-based Huntsman in an all-stock deal unveiled in May that the companies described as a merger of equals. The deal was met with a lukewarm response from shareholders as the Swiss company, which had long been cited as a takeover target itself, had attracted investors betting on a buyout.

Corvex was formed at the end of 2010 by Keith Meister, who previously worked for billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn. The New York-based fund has active investments in companies including Energen Corp. and Pandora Media Inc. and took new equity stakes this year in 10 companies including Facebook Inc., Praxair Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive Co., according to its latest regulatory filing.

European Activism

Activism in Switzerland took center stage last month when Dan Loeb’s Third Point confirmed it’s amassed a $3.5 billion stake in Nestle SA, targeting Europe’s largest company by market value in the biggest bet of his two-decade career as an activist investor. Activist investors, which traditionally focus on the U.S., have been drawn by surging equity markets in Europe and a stronger economic backdrop.

Almost 600 activist campaigns have been launched against U.S. companies since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, compared with fewer than 100 against targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The Clariant-Huntsman deal extended a record run of consolidation in the global chemicals industry including Dow Chemical Co.’s merger with DuPont Co. and China National Chemical Corp.’s takeover of Syngenta AG of Switzerland.

— With assistance by Jan-Henrik Foerster, Ruth David, Dinesh Nair, Alice Baghdjian, Eyk Henning, and Manuel Baigorri

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