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(Bloomberg) -- Keith Meister’s activist hedge fund Corvex Management has built a stake in Clariant AG, the Swiss chemical maker planning a $6.4 billion takeover of Huntsman Corp.
Corvex and 40 North, the investment firm run by David Winter and David Millstone, disclosed a jointly-held 5.13 percent stake in Clariant, according to a Swiss regulatory filing dated Tuesday. A partnership set up by the two firms has an interest in 17.02 million shares of Clariant, the filing shows. Corvex plans to push the company to explore alternatives to the Huntsman deal including a potential sale, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The activist investor believes the Huntsman acquisition, which was championed by Clariant Chief Executive Officer Hariolf Kottmann, lacks strategic rationale, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the situation is private. The two firms’ joint stake in Clariant is worth about 367 million Swiss francs ($381 million) based on Monday’s close, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
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 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.
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 from Jan-Henrik Förster Ruth David Dinesh Nair Alice Baghdjian Eyk Henning and Manuel Baigorri
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