In early February, troubled electric utility Aquila
Aquila's CEO, Richard Green, defended the less-than-appetizing takeout price of his firm by pointing out that all other bidders bowed out after digging into the company financials, and that the final bidder was willing to pay more than the fair value calculated by Aquila's three financial advisors. "It gives us a solid sense that the market has spoken," Green said. Well, I have a similar sense: The market almost immediately dumped shares below the takeout offer, and the stock has continued to flounder for two months.
The deal has been vocally opposed by nearly-5% shareholder Pirate Capital, an activist hedge fund that, despite its downsizing last year, seems to keep cropping up in my Foolish takes. The latest salvo from these gentlemen of fortune is a website, http://www.badaquiladeal.com/, which primarily hosts a presentation outlining Pirate's opposition and its thoughts on how Aquila could better maximize value for shareholders. The site's limited-time offer of free T-shirts, now past, was a creative and unorthodox tactic.
Pirate makes some noteworthy points in its presentation, ranging from the tax disadvantages of the sale to the possibility of the company attaining an investment-grade credit rating without selling itself to Great Plains. I am given pause by Aquila's net debt/EBITDA ratio, which is more than double the peer group median. However, the company has made great strides in bringing debt down to where it stands today, so I don't see what's stopping it from using all of the Black Hills proceeds in order to continue to clean up the balance sheet, rather than diverting a portion of that money to fund the Great Plains takeover.
Pirate Capital has a bold five-year vision for Aquila, but the management team doesn't seem to share those aspirations. Their energy in turning this company around seems to have sputtered out.
Great Plains Energy is an Income Investor pick. You can check out any of the Fool's newsletters with a 30-day free trial.
Fool contributor Toby Shute's best childhood birthday party was pirate-themed. Thanks, Mom, that was awesome. There's a bounty on the head of all who disobey The Motley Fool's disclosure policy. Yarr.