The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) announced today that the Ontario Securities Commission has approved amendments to Part VI of the TSX Company Manual respecting the acquisition of public companies. While section 611(c) of the Manual currently requires shareholder approval for the issuance of securities as full or partial consideration for an acquisition where the securities to be issued exceed 25% of issued and outstanding securities, an exception exists where the acquiree has 50 or more beneficial shareholders, excluding insiders and employees (a public company).
The amendments announced today will remove the exception for public companies, thereby applying the dilution threshold of 25% to all acquisitions. These amendments follow two separate rounds of requests for comments published by the TSX in October 2007 and later in April 2009. In the April 2009 Request for Comments, the TSX proposed to require shareholder approval at the dilution level of 50% but decided, consistent with the majority of those that commented on the proposals, that the threshold dilution level should be lower than that proposed. In its Notice of Approval, however, the TSX notes that while it strives “not to rely on discretion” to alter its rules other than in "extraordinary circumstances or where the rules do not apply to the circumstances”, the TSX Manual does provide discretion to impose or exempt issuers from requirements in the Manual in “appropriate circumstances.” It further notes that the “exercise of discretion by TSX is, and should be, limited, particularly where there is a bright line test that applies.” It will therefore continue to apply s. 611(c) (which requires securityholder approval for transactions above the 25% threshold) in this manner.
The amendments become effective on November 24, 2009 but will not have retroactive effect. Any transaction of which the TSX has been notified in writing prior to such date will not be subject to the new rules, regardless of whether or not TSX conditional approval has been granted.