Corporate / M&A

Romania: The Artist’s Way- How to Force Out Minority Shareholders from Non-Listed Companies

The Romanian legal provisions offer few mechanisms to force minority shareholders out from a company, but use of such mechanisms should be tailored on a case-by-case basis.

Limited number of legal tools

In a rapidly growing business environment, many companies have a number of passive minority shareholders whose presence might disturb the shareholders who are actively involved in increasing the company’s profitability.

Although Romanian legal provisions offer only a limited number of alternatives for forcing out minority shareholders, a number of practical solutions leading to that result have been identified and successfully implemented.

As a preliminary note, generally, modifying the corporate structure to squeeze out minority shareholders should be carefully considered, especially since such structures are rarely without risk. One of the main obstacles is the right of the minority shareholders to challenge the corporate resolution on their exit. For this reason, planning of any such measure should begin with a thorough check to ensure compliance with corporate formalities related to shareholders’ decisions, since a breach of these formalities potentially exposes the resolution to the risk of annulment for an indefinite term.

Transformation of a joint-stock company into a limited liability company

One way to force out minority shareholders is to transform a joint-stock company into a limited liability company (“LLC“). As Romanian law sets the maximum number of shareholders in a LLC at 50, the transformation of a joint-stock company with more than 50 shareholders into an LLC will automatically lead to a corresponding reduction (exit) of shareholders. The corporate resolution on the change of the legal form requires a majority of at least two thirds of the voting rights held by the present or represented shareholders (unless the company’s articles of association stipulate a higher majority). Adopting an LLC structure would provide the majority shareholders with valid grounds to squeeze out minority shareholders so as to comply with the statutory limit of 50 shareholders. The squeezed out shareholders are entitled to fair compensation for their shares, which has to be determined based on expert valuation reports.

Consolidation of the share capital by increasing the par value of a share, without the amendment of the share capital

Another way to force out minority shareholders is to consolidate the share capital through the increase of the par value of a share to a level that is in excess of the minority shareholders’ overall participation in the share capital. Since this structure envisages only the increase of the nominal value of a share and not the share capital, no infusion of capital is required.

To preserve fair treatment of minority shareholders, the shareholder resolution should provide for the minority shareholders’ opportunity to subscribe the difference between the fraction of the share held following the consolidation process and the new par value of one share. Hence, on the theoretical level, minority shareholders may still preserve their shareholding position, but only in exchange for additional contribution to the share capital up to the new nominal value of a share.

Refusal to grant the minority shareholders the right to preserve their position by additional contribution bears the risk of a right to challenge the corporate resolution on the squeeze out for abuse of the minority shareholders on behalf and for the benefit of the majority shareholders.

Reduction of the share capital by annulment of shares

Finally, the reduction of the company’s share capital may have as a secondary effect the elimination of some minority shareholders, ie, when such reduction is made through the acquisition by the company of its own shares followed by their annulment. This operation was commonly used by joint stock companies but may also be applied to other types of companies. This corporate operation shall be registered with the competent Trade Registry Office in two phases, encompassing a period of two months (as of the day the first corporate resolution approving the reduction is published in the Official Gazette), granted to the company’s creditors for opposition purposes.

As an illustration, if the annulment is approved at a rate of 1:100, shareholders having less than 100 shares would be forced out of the company. For their participation in the company these shareholders should receive fair compensation for their shares, to be determined based on expert valuation reports.

Even though the Romanian legal provisions offer a limited number of alternatives for forcing out minority shareholders, a number of practical solutions leading to the same effect have been identified and successfully implemented.

O abordare de artist: Cum sa determini iesirea minoritarilor din societatile nelistate

Prevederile legale din Romania ofera cateva mecanisme ce ar putea avea drept consecinta iesirea unor asociati/actionari minoritari dintr-o societate, dar folosirea acestor mecanisme ar trebui adaptata in functie de fiecare caz in parte.

Numar limitat de instrumente juridice

In contextul unui mediu de afaceri aflat intr-o continua dezvoltare, realitatea ne arata ca multe societati au in structura lor asociati/actionari minoritari pasivi, a caror prezenta ar putea incomoda asociatii/actionarii care se implica activ in cresterea profitabilitatii respectivei societati.

Cu toate ca prevederile legale din Romania ofera doar un numar limitat de alternative care au drept consecinta iesirea din societate a asociatilor/actionarilor minoritari, un numar de solutii practice avand acest rezultat au fost identificate si implementate cu succes.

Cu titlu preliminar mentionam ca, in general, modificarea structurii societare pentru determinarea iesirii din societate a asociatilor/actionarilor minoritari ar trebui analizata in mod prudent, in special datorita faptului ca rareori asemenea structuri nu comporta riscuri. Unul dintre principalele obstacole este dreptul asociatilor/actionarilor minoritari de a ataca hotararea societara ce a condus la iesirea lor din societate. Pentru acest motiv, planificarea oricarei astfel de masuri ar trebui initiata printr-o verificare detaliata a formalitatilor societare privind adoptarea hotararilor asociatilor/actionarilor, intrucat o incalcare a acestor formalitati poate expune hotararea la riscul de a fi anulata pentru o perioada nedeterminata de timp.

Transformarea unei societati pe actiuni intr-o societate cu raspundere limitata

O modalitate de determinare a iesirii din societate a minoritarilor este transformarea unei societati pe actiuni intr-o societate cu raspundere limitata (“SRL”). Intrucat legea romana stabileste numarul maxim de asociati intr-o SRL la 50, transformarea unei societati pe actiuni cu mai mult de 50 de actionari intr-o SRL va conduce in mod automat la o reducere corespunzatoare (iesire) a numarului de actionari. Hotararea societara prin care se aproba schimbarea formei juridice a societatii trebuie adoptata cu o majoritate de cel putin doua treimi a drepturilor de vot detinute de actionarii prezenti sau reprezentati (cu exceptia cazului in care actul constitutiv al societatii nu prevede o majoritate mai mare). Adoptarea unei structuri de tip SRL va acorda actionarilor majoritari argumente solide in sprijinul determinarii iesirii fortate a minoritarilor din societate astfel incat sa fie respectata cerinta limitarii asociatilor la un numar de 50. Actionarii care sunt astfel determinati sa iasa din societate sunt indreptatiti sa primeasca o suma reprezentand echivalentul valorii actiunilor lor, care va fi fixata pe baza de rapoarte de evaluare.

Consolidarea capitalului social prin cresterea valorii nominale a unei actiuni, fara modificarea capitalului social

O alta metoda de a determina iesirea fortata a minoritarilor este de a consolida capitalul social prin cresterea valorii nominale a unei actiuni la o valoare mai mare decat participatia totala a oricarui minoritar la capitalul social. Intrucat aceasta structura are in vedere doar cresterea valorii nominale a unei actiuni si nu a capitalului social, infuzia de capital nu este necesara.

Pentru a mentine un tratament echitabil cu privire la minoritari, hotararea actionarilor ar trebui sa prevada posibilitatea acestora de a subscrie diferenta dintre fractiunea de actiune detinuta in urma operatiunii de consolidare si noua valoare nominala a unei actiuni. Astfel, la nivel teoretic, minoritarii ar putea totusi sa isi mentina pozitia de actionari, insa doar in schimbul unei contributii suplimentare la capitalul social pana la nivelul noii valori nominale a unei actiuni.

Refuzul de a acorda actionarilor minoritari dreptul de a-si mentine pozitia in societate prin contributii suplimentare comporta riscul atacarii de catre minoritari a hotararii societare avand drept scop iesirea lor din societate pentru abuzul exercitat asupra acestora de catre si in beneficiul actionarilor majoritari.

Reducerea capitalului social prin anularea de actiuni

In cele din urma, reducerea capitalului social al unei societati poate avea drept efect secundar eliminarea unora din actionarii minoritari, i.e. atunci cand o astfel de reducere se face prin dobandirea de catre societate a propriilor actiuni urmata de anularea lor. Aceasta operatiune este in mod obisnuit utilizata la societatile pe actiuni, dar poate fi aplicata si la alte tipuri de societati. Aceasta operatiune societara va fi inregistrata la Oficiul Registrului Comertului competent in doua etape, ce includ o perioada de doua luni (de la data la care prima decizie societara care aproba reducerea este publicata in Monitorul Oficial) acordata creditorilor societatii pentru opozitie. Cu titlu de exemplu, daca anularea este aprobata la o rata de 1:100, actionarii care detin mai putin de 100 de actiuni vor fi determinati sa iasa din societate. Pentru participatiile detinute in societate, acesti actionari ar trebui sa primeasca o suma reprezentand echivalentul valorii actiunilor lor, care va fi determinata pe baza de rapoarte de evaluare.

Desi prevederile legale din Romania ofera un numar limitat de alternative pentru determinarea iesirii din societate a minoritarilor, un numar de solutii practice avand acelasi efect au fost identificate si implementate cu succes.