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News : Amcom Deploys Digital Warfare to Win Vocus Battle
Perth, Australia, May 13, 2015 -- Amcom chairman Tony Grist is not leaving one digital stone unturned in his efforts to garner enough support from small shareholders to get a merger with Vocus Communications across the line.
The odds are against him. David Teoh's TPG Telecom has at least 18.6 per cent of the register and plans to block the deal. Mr Grist needs more than 75 per cent of shareholders to support the merger, which means every vote matters.
Mr Grist, who argues his case in a video message on the company's website, is targeting shareholders via email, social media, through telemarketers and video messages to get his message across. Messages are also being delivered via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. One weapon in his defence is the Perth-based telecom company's internal marketing team, which includes "another generation" of digital-savvy staff.
Whether he wins or not, it is an interesting case study in the use of new media in takeover battles, whether by an activist shareholder or a target company trying to get its message across.
Amcom believes it needs about 6000 of the company's 8000 shareholders to vote in favour of the deal as the last 2000 investors count for less than 1 per cent of the company's stock.
"We are breaking them into bands of shareholder size and geocoding them. Targeting them into electronic and print and social media. Getting to them with different forms of digital media," Mr Grist said.
Amcom has email addresses for about half the shareholder base, which includes a lot of self-managed retirees and high net worth investors or smaller clients with stockbroking firms. A call centre has also been set up to target shareholders the old-fashioned way.
Mr Grist said emails are more effective than social media and better than a phone call that can make people feel like they are being hassled. He said one lesson he has learnt from the campaign, so far, is to populate your database with as many shareholder email addresses as possible before you actually need them.
Success is not impossible, hence the campaign, but the chances of winning the takeover battle with TPG are slim. Under a scheme of arrangement, the takeover needs the support of more than 75 per cent of shareholders. This means more than 80 per cent of Amcom shares that are now owned by TPG or Vocus must vote in favour of the merger.
Traditionally no more than 70 per cent of shareholders actually bother to vote on a deal.
"I think there is a chance. I want it to look like we are being quite rational and we are utilising all our resources to get to our shareholders. It will be close," Mr Grist said.
There is a question mark over how Vocus' 10 per cent stake will be treated. Popular opinion says Vocus is party to the scheme and cannot vote. This is something Amcom will be seeking legal advice on if it is the only way to get a deal across the line.
It is also looking at other back up options including a reverse takeover, although that could result in TPG buying into Vocus and blocking the deal anyway.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Vocus Communications:
Vocus Communications is an ASX listed telecommunications provider of data centre, wholesale voice, peering and international Internet connectivity to telecommunications companies and ISPs across Australia, NZ and the US.
Published: Friday, May 15, 2015