France: Publication De La Doctrine AMF Sur Les Cessions Et Acquisitions D'actifs Significatifs

Le 17 juin 2015, l'Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) a publié sa doctrine concernant les cessions et les acquisitions d'actifs significatifs dans une position-recommandation DOC-2015-05 suite aux travaux réalisés dans le cadre d'un groupe de travail dont Arnaud Pérès fait partie.

Pour l'AMF, les enjeux de l'encadrement de ces transactions sont multiples : assurer une information financière fiable et en temps utile, prévenir et gérer les conflits d'intérêts potentiels, respecter l'intérêt social et protéger les actionnaires minoritaires.

  1. Concernant les cessions d'actifs significatifs

    Consultation des actionnaires dans certains cas

    L'AMF considère comme légitime et souhaitable de consulter les actionnaires préalablement à la cession effective d'actifs, lorsque ceux-ci représentent la majorité des actifs et activités de la société et que leur cession modifie substantiellement la physionomie de l'activité et/ou la stratégie affichée par la société et intégrée par le marché.

    Les actionnaires devront être ainsi consultés lors d'une cession, en une ou plusieurs opérations, d'actifs représentant au moins la moitié de ses actifs totaux en moyenne sur deux derniers exercices. Les promesses ou options sont également visées.

    L'AMF considère que ce seuil est atteint si au moins deux des cinq ratios suivants atteint 50%:

    • le chiffre d'affaires des actifs cédés rapporté au chiffre d'affaires consolidé;
    • le prix de cession des actifs rapporté à la capitalisation boursière du groupe;
    • la valeur nette des actifs cédés rapportée au total de bilan consolidé;
    • le résultat courant avant impôts généré par les actifs cédés rapporté au résultat courant consolidé avant impôts;
    • les effectifs salariés de l'activité cédée rapportés aux effectifs mondiaux du groupe.

    La consultation des actionnaires devra être réalisée dans des conditions de quorum et de majorité applicables aux assemblées générales ordinaires sauf si le conseil en décide autrement eu égard aux circonstances et notamment à la configuration de l'actionnariat. La consultation prendra la forme d'un vote sur une résolution présentée au vu d'un document du conseil indiquant notamment les éléments de contexte et de négociation de l'accord de cession.

    L'AMF souhaite à ce titre que les codes de gouvernement d'entreprise (Afep-Medef, Middlenext) soient modifiés afin d'intégrer cette recommandation.

    Information renforcée sur le contexte et le déroulement des opérations de cession d'actifs significatifs

    L'AMF précise que dans le cadre de leurs obligations en matière d'information financière, les émetteurs ont une obligation d'information permanente sur tout fait ou opération constituant une information privilégiée ce qui s'applique donc aux cessions d'actifs significatifs (au plus tard lors de la finalisation de l'opération). Cette information a un périmètre plus large et peut porter sur des cessions d'actifs qui ne sont pas soumises à la consultation des actionnaires.

    A ce titre, l'information doit préciser les circonstances et motifs d'ordre stratégique, économique et financier qui ont conduit à envisager et lancer le processus de cession. L'AMF recommande que l'information spécifique sur le contexte et la négociation de l'accord de cession précise notamment:

    • le processus d'instruction de l'opération par les organes de la société et les conditions dans lesquelles le conseil s'est prononcé (éléments de nature à conforter l'objectivité et l'impartialité de l'examen de l'offre);
    • les critères quantitatifs et qualitatifs explicitant les raisons pour lesquelles l'offre a été retenue.

    Il appartiendra à l'émetteur de déterminer le degré de détail et le moment de publication de cette information en fonction des circonstances et des obligations qui pèse sur lui au titre de l'information permanente.

    Mise en place de bonnes pratiques permettant d'apprécier la conformité de l'opération avec l'intérêt social

    Afin d'apprécier le respect de l'intérêt social, l'AMF recommande que le conseil, la direction générale ou le directoire soit particulièrement attentif:

    • aux moyens et procédures permettant d'identifier et d'encadrer d'éventuels conflits d'intérêts et de conforter l'objectivité et l'impartialité de l'examen de l'opération tels que la mise en place d'un comité ad hoc d'administrateurs indépendants, la sollicitation d'avis externes ...
    • à l'appréciation des éléments qu'ils estiment pertinents pour déterminer le processus et les modalités de cession et notamment : le prix de cession, l'existence d'un processus concurrentiel, le traitement des offres sollicitées, les exigences tenant à la confidentialité du processus de cession, les circonstances et conséquences sociales et industrielles de l'opération, les conditions et modalités de réalisation exigées par le cessionnaire.
  2. Concernant les acquisitions d'actifs significatifs

    A l'inverse de ce qu'elle recommande pour les cessions, l'AMF a cependant estimé que s'agissant des acquisitions d'actifs significatifs, la consultation en amont des actionnaires n'était pas nécessaire dans la mesure où dans la plupart des cas, ces opérations sont déjà soumises au vote des actionnaires car elles nécessitent de procéder à une augmentation de capital. Elle considère par ailleurs que cette consultation constituerait un handicap compétitif sérieux pour les sociétés cotées françaises compte tenu des délais et de l'aléa engendré.

    Comme pour les cessions, l'AMF préconise une information renforcée sur le contexte et le déroulement des opérations d'acquisitions d'actifs significatifs laquelle doit préciser les circonstances et motifs d'ordre stratégique, économique et financier qui ont conduit à envisager et lancer le processus d'acquisition.

    L'AMF recommande par ailleurs que l'information précise notamment (i) le processus d'instruction de l'opération et (ii) le mode de financement de l'acquisition.

    Enfin, l'AMF encourage, tout comme pour les cessions d'actifs, à mettre en place de bonnes pratiques permettant de démontrer la conformité d'une opération d'acquisition d'actifs significatifs avec l'intérêt social.

Originally published on 24 November 2015

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