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  Staff Interpretation Letter 2013-6
Identification Number 1093

This is in response to your interpretive request asking whether a proposed Transaction by the company requires shareholder approval under Listing Rule 5635 (the "Rule").

According to the information you provided, the company, the company's majority shareholder and a new investor are considering entering into a two part agreement, which would result in the reduction of the majority shareholder's ownership from more than 50% to less than 15%, and the new investor obtaining approximately 25% of the company's total shares and voting power outstanding on a post-transaction basis (the "Transaction"). The new investor is a limited partnership in which two executive officers of the company (the "Insiders") would own a minority interest. The general partner of the new investor would also be owned by the Insiders. The Transaction would be structured in two interdependent parts and the closing of each would be conditioned upon the other.

In the Transaction, the company would first repurchase shares of its common stock owned by the majority shareholder (the "Repurchase Transaction"). The Repurchase Transaction would be structured such that the company acquires a wholly owned subsidiary of the majority shareholder (the "Subsidiary"), holding only shares of the company's common stock and net operating losses, in exchange for cash and a fewer number of newly issued shares of common stock. You stated that the shares purchased by the company in the Repurchase Transaction would be at a discount to the market value of those shares and that the newly issued shares would be in exchange for the same number of shares held by the Subsidiary. Following the Repurchase Transaction, the company would own 100% of the Subsidiary and company shares held by the Subsidiary would be considered treasury shares, which have no voting rights and would not be taken into account when calculating the company's earnings per share. You stated that these treasury shares would be entitled to receive dividends, if any, paid by the company, but that such amounts would remain within the company's consolidated financial statements.

Immediately following the Repurchase Transaction, the majority shareholder would sell shares of the company's common stock to the new investor at the same price per share agreed to in the Repurchase Transaction (the "Private Sale").

Currently, the company is a Controlled Company under the Listing Rules and does not have a majority independent board, nominating committee or compensation committee. Following the Transaction, the company will cease to be a Controlled Company and neither the majority shareholder nor the new investor would have any board designation rights. The Insiders currently sit on the company's board and would retain their board seats following the Transaction.

You stated that the company could complete the Transaction without issuing new shares in exchange for the same number of currently outstanding shares in the Repurchase Transaction. However, by structuring the Transaction in the manner described, the company believes that it could achieve a significant economic benefit for its remaining shareholders, including the existing public shareholders.

Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Transaction does not require shareholder approval under the Rule. Listing Rule 5635(a) requires shareholder approval in certain circumstances "prior to the issuance of securities in connection with the acquisition of the stock or assets of another company"; Listing Rule 5635(b) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities when the issuance or potential issuance would result in a change of control of the company"; Listing Rule 5635(c) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities when a stock option or purchase plan is to be established or materially amended or other equity compensation arrangement made or materially amended, pursuant to which stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants"; and Listing Rule 5635(d) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities" in connection with certain transactions at a price below the greater of book or market value. Each of these rules predicates the need for shareholder approval on an issuance of securities by the company. In the Repurchase Transaction, while the company is providing new shares in exchange for currently outstanding shares, there would be no increase in the number of shares outstanding and, in fact, the number of shares outstanding would decrease. As such, the Repurchase Transaction would not be considered an issuance of the company's securities for purposes of the Listing Rules. In the Private Sale, the majority shareholder is selling shares to the Insiders, and no shares are being issued by the company.

In addition, with respect to Listing Rule 5635(c), we note that shareholder approval is also required in connection with other equity compensation arrangements. Because the company is not issuing shares to any officer, director, employee or consultant at a discount to market value, and because the company would not be required to account for any part of the Transaction as equity compensation under GAAP, we would not consider the Transaction to be an equity compensation arrangement and shareholder approval therefore is not required under Listing Rule 5635(c).

Publication Date*: 10/23/2013 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1093
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