Here’s a thought that could kill off tentative signs of an uptick in shareholder activism: the competition authorities were among those looking on intently at Allan Gray’s recent Group Five activist outing and, word is, they weren’t as enthralled with the outcome as many of us. "Was that an acquisition of control that needed to be notified?" asked one stoney-faced competition lawyer, referring to the new nonexecutive directors put in place after the extraordinary shareholders’ meeting Allan Gray had demanded. For years SA’s powerful institutional shareholders defended their largely passive approach to their investee companies by reference to what happened at Comparex in 2002. That was when Allan Gray, Investec Asset Management and Sanlam got together and demanded the replacement of five nonexecutive directors they believed were not doing a good job of directing the firm’s resources. Their combined 38% stake gave them the muscle to support their demands. All hell broke loose. There w...

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