The Fair Value of Cornfields in Delaware Appraisal Law
48 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2005 Last revised: 13 May 2009
The Delaware Supreme Court's opinions in Weinberger and Technicolor have left a troublesome uncertainty in defining the proper approach to the valuation of corporate shares. That uncertainty - increasingly important as going private mergers become more frequent - can be resolved by a blend of financial and doctrinal analysis. The primary problem - the potential opportunism by controlling shareholders in timing going private mergers - can be addressed by a more complete understanding of corporate finance. The definition of fair value must include not only the present value of the firm's existing assets, but also the future opportunities to reinvest free cash flow, including reinvestment opportunities identified, even if not yet developed, before the merger. This issue has been incompletely articulated by the courts. On the other hand, value created by the merger that can only be achieved by means of the merger itself - such as reduced costs of public company compliance - should not be included in determining fair value. We also show that except in the case of acquisitions by third parties (where actual sale value, minus synergies, is a useful measure of fair value), hypothetical third party sale value does not and should not ordinarily be taken as a measure of fair value.
Keywords: Delaware appraisal law, corporate finance, valuation
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