OSC and BCSC on Defensive Private Placements Under the New Take-Over Bids Regime
As discussed in our previous post, the first hostile take-over bid under the new Canadian take-over bid rules was launched by Hecla Mining Company (Hecla) in July 2016 for the purchase of all of the outstanding shares of Dolly Varden Silver Corporation (Dolly), a TSX Venture Exchange listed issuer. Since our initial post, this take-over bid has become of particular interest to capital market participants because applications were made by each of Hecla and Dolly to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) related to the take-over bid and the subsequent private placement announced by Dolly. Many hoped that the OSC and BCSC (collectively, the Commissions) in deciding these applications would bring additional clarity on how regulators would review alleged defensive tactics in light of the new take-over bid rules.
A simultaneous hearing in front of the OSC and the BCSC was held on July 20 and 21, 2016 and while the applicable orders were rendered on July 22, 2016 by each of the Commissions, the highly anticipated joint reasons were not issued until October 24, 2016. In their reasons, the Commissions concluded that the question of whether a private placement is an abusive defensive tactic requiring regulator intervention is a fact-dependent balance between policy considerations and bona fide corporate objectives and outlined a two-step test for regulators to weigh the relevant factors.
Defensive Private Placements
The most anticipated portion of the Commissions’ reasons relates to Hecla’s application to cease-trade the private placement Dolly announced after Hecla announced its take-over bid. In its application, Hecla argued that the private placement should be cease-traded either as an abusive defensive tactic under National Policy 62-202 Take-Over Bids – Defensive Tactics (NP 62-202) or under the Commissions’ broader public interest mandate.