Elliott Management has called on German classifieds company Scout24 to divest its car listings division and launch a “more ambitious, yet prudent, buyback program.” The activist investor launched a website in English and German.
The investor, which owns a 7% stake in the German firm, said that the share repurchase is “not only appropriate, it is urgent,” adding that CEO Tobias Hartmann is lacking ambition and management needs to take immediate remedial action. Elliott criticized the 300-million-euro share buyback program announced by Scout24 in July as being “frustratingly insufficient.”
“Should you take the decisive action needed to remove the impediments holding back Scout24, we believe the share price could rise to in excess of 65 euros per share. Unfortunately, recent events have us wondering if the Scout management team shares our optimism for these high-quality businesses,” Elliott said in a letter to the board.
Shares in Scout24 are trading slightly up at 50.45 euros per share on Monday morning in Frankfurt. A source told Reuters the activist believes the AutoScout24 division could fetch a price of up to 2.5 billion euros, while the core operations had a standalone value of 5 billion euros. Reuters’ source also said that German publisher Axel Springer and used car platform AUTO1 expressed interest in Scout24’s car listings division.
Earlier this year, a takeover bid by Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman collapsed after the 46-euro-per-share offer failed to secure shareholder support, despite the recommendation of the company’s board.
“A critical question on the minds of Scout24’s major shareholders: Is the team that recommended shareholders sell their shares at 46 euros per share the right team to take this business beyond 65 euros per share?” the investor said.
Elliott said that its recommendations must be followed “without delay” as it will take the company “significantly closer to its fair value” of more than 65 euros per share.
Elliott has been increasingly active in Germany in recent months. The investor took stakes in ThyssenKrupp, where it reportedly pushed for a split, SAP and Bayer, where it downplayed the company’s legal issues regarding its Roundup weedkiller.