France: La loi PACTE assouplit les conditions de mise en œuvre du retrait obligatoire

Last Updated: 26 July 2019
Article by Jérôme Brosset

La loi Pacte, définitivement adoptée par l'Assemblée nationale le 11 avril 2019 et promulguée le 22 mai 2019 prévoit un abaissement du seuil de retrait obligatoire (et de l'offre publique de retrait)

Communément appelé « squeeze-out », le mécanisme de retrait obligatoire intervient au terme d'une offre publique d'acquisition et permet à un actionnaire majoritaire d'une société cotée sur Euronext Paris ou sur Euronext Growth de forcer l'acquisition des titres des actionnaires minoritaires sous certaines conditions et en contrepartie d'une indemnisation.

Lors de la transposition de la directive 2004/25/CE relative aux offres publiques d'acquisition (la « directive OPA »), la France avait fait le choix de maintenir à 95% le seuil ouvrant droit au retrait obligatoire, soit le seuil le plus élevé autorisé par la directive. En 2018, il fallait cependant constater qu'en conservant ce seuil, la France comptait parmi les rares pays avec l'Italie, la Lituanie, le Luxembourg et les Pays-Bas à avoir conservé ce seuil de 95%.

Dans son volet relatif à la simplification de l'accès des entreprises aux marchés financiers, la loi PACTE prévoit d'abaisser de 95% à 90% le seuil de détention de l'actionnaire majoritaire pour exercer ce retrait obligatoire.

La loi PACTE modifie ainsi l'article L.433-4, II, 1 du Code monétaire et financier en ces termes : « Le règlement général de l'Autorité des marchés financiers fixe les modalités selon lesquelles, à l'issue de toute offre publique et dans un délai de trois mois à l'issue de la clôture de cette offre, les titres non-présentés par les actionnaires minoritaires, dès lors qu'ils ne représentent pas plus de 10% du capital et des droits de vote, sont transférés aux actionnaires majoritaires à leur demande, et les détenteurs de ces titres sont indemnisés ».

L'article 237-1 du règlement général de l'AMF (« RGAMF ») a été modifié dans la foulée en juin 2019 et est désormais rédigé comme suit « A l'issue de toute offre publique et dans un délai de trois mois à l'issue de la clôture de l'offre, l'initiateur de cette offre publique peut se voir transférer les titres non présentés par les actionnaires minoritaires dès lors qu'ils ne représentent pas plus de 10 % du capital et des droits de vote moyennant indemnisation de ces derniers. [...] »1.

La loi PACTE modifie l'article L.433-4 du Code monétaire et financier et l'article 237-1 du RGAMF en retenant le caractère cumulatif et non plus alternatif du capital et des droits de vote dans le cadre du mode du calcul du seuil. La réforme rejoint en cela l'esprit de la directive OPA de 2004 et l'interprétation de l'Autorité des marchés financiers qui estime, depuis longtemps, que la mise en Suvre du retrait obligatoire n'est possible que si les actionnaires majoritaires détiennent plus de 95% du capital et des droits de vote et ce, afin d'éviter l'effet d'aubaine attaché à la détention éventuelle de droits de vote double.

En toute logique, le seuil de déclenchement d'une offre publique de retrait (OPR), à la demande des actionnaires majoritaires ou des minoritaires, a, lui aussi, été ramené à 90 % et, plus précisément, à « au moins 90 % du capital ou des droits de vote »2.

L'objectif affiché de cette modification est de renforcer l'attractivité de la Place de Paris (i) en adressant un signal rassurant aux candidats à l'introduction en bourse quant à l'assouplissement des règles de sortie de cote, et (ii) en limitant, notamment en les rendant plus coûteuses, les opérations de prises de participation opportunistes par des fonds d'investissement activistes à l'occasion d'offres publiques pour bloquer le retrait obligatoire et monnayer à de meilleures conditions leur prix de sortie.

Footnotes

1 Arrêté du 19 juin 2019 portant homologation de modifications du règlement général de l'Autorité des marchés financiers

2 Article L. 433-4, I, 1, du Code monétaire et financier et article 236-1 du RGAMF

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