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Poison Put: Definition, Strategies, and Real-world Scenarios

Last updated 03/28/2024 by

Bamigbola Paul

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A poison put is a takeover defense strategy where a target company issues bonds with a provision allowing investors to redeem them before maturity in the event of a hostile takeover. This article explores how poison puts work, their benefits, alternatives, and their impact on shareholders.

What is a poison put?

A poison put is a defensive mechanism employed by target companies to ward off hostile takeovers. It involves the issuance of bonds with a unique provision, known as a poison put covenant. This covenant grants bondholders the right to redeem their bonds at face value before their maturity date if certain trigger events, such as a hostile takeover, occur.

How does a poison put work?

When a hostile takeover is imminent, bondholders can exercise their right to redeem their bonds under the poison put provision. This forces the acquiring company to incur additional expenses, thereby increasing the overall cost of the takeover. Unlike other poison pill defenses, such as shareholder rights plans, poison puts do not directly affect the company’s stock or voting rights but instead impact its financial obligations.

Alternatives to poison puts

While poison puts are effective takeover defenses, they are not the only strategy available to target companies. Alternatives include crown jewel defenses, stock acceleration, and the Pac-Man defense. Each of these tactics has its own unique advantages and can be tailored to suit the specific circumstances facing the target company.

Impact on shareholders

Despite their effectiveness as takeover defenses, poison puts can have significant implications for shareholders. By increasing the cost of acquisition, poison puts may deter potential acquirers, thereby depriving shareholders of potential takeover premiums. Additionally, the issuance of bonds with poison put provisions can dilute existing shareholders’ equity, leading to a reduction in their ownership stake in the company.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Acts as a deterrent against hostile takeovers
  • Provides leverage during negotiations
  • Preserves corporate independence
  • May dilute existing shareholders’ equity
  • Could deter potential acquirers, depriving shareholders of takeover premiums

Comprehensive examples of poison puts

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario to illustrate how a poison put works in practice. Imagine Company A, a publicly traded corporation, receives an unsolicited acquisition offer from Company B, a competitor in the same industry. Concerned about the potential ramifications of a takeover, Company A’s board of directors decides to implement a poison put defense.
Company A issues bonds with a poison put covenant, allowing bondholders to redeem their bonds at face value if Company B successfully acquires a controlling interest in Company A. This provision effectively increases the financial burden on Company B, as it must now not only purchase a significant portion of Company A’s shares but also repay the bonds at their full value.

Examining the legal and regulatory landscape

While poison puts are a commonly used takeover defense strategy, it’s essential to understand the legal and regulatory framework surrounding their implementation. Securities laws and regulations govern the issuance of bonds and the inclusion of poison put provisions, ensuring transparency and fairness for all stakeholders involved.
Corporate executives and legal advisors must carefully navigate these legal requirements to ensure compliance and mitigate the risk of potential litigation or regulatory scrutiny. Additionally, stakeholders should stay informed about any changes or updates to relevant laws and regulations that may impact the use of poison puts in corporate governance.

Exploring advanced applications of poison puts

Beyond their traditional use as takeover defense mechanisms, poison puts can be leveraged in innovative ways to achieve strategic objectives and protect shareholder interests. Corporate finance professionals and legal experts continue to explore new applications and variations of poison puts to address evolving challenges in corporate governance and M&A transactions.
Advanced strategies may involve combining poison puts with other defensive tactics or integrating them into broader corporate restructuring initiatives. By harnessing the full potential of poison puts, companies can enhance their ability to navigate complex competitive landscapes and safeguard shareholder value.

Understanding the role of institutional investors

Institutional investors, such as pension funds and mutual funds, play a significant role in shaping corporate governance practices and influencing strategic decisions related to takeover defenses like poison puts. These institutional stakeholders often possess substantial voting power and financial resources, allowing them to exert influence on management teams and boards of directors.
It’s essential for companies to engage with institutional investors proactively and transparently, seeking their input and feedback on critical issues such as the implementation of poison put provisions. By fostering constructive dialogue and collaboration with institutional investors, companies can strengthen their defenses against hostile takeovers and enhance long-term shareholder value.


In conclusion, poison puts play a crucial role in the realm of corporate takeover defense strategies. By providing target companies with a powerful tool to deter hostile takeovers, poison puts help safeguard shareholder interests and preserve corporate independence. However, it is essential for investors and corporate executives to carefully consider the potential impact of poison puts on shareholder value and corporate governance before implementing them as part of their defensive strategy.

Frequently asked questions

What triggers the activation of a poison put provision?

A poison put provision is typically triggered by specific events, such as a hostile takeover attempt, a change in control of the company, or a significant decline in the company’s credit rating. Once triggered, bondholders have the right to demand early repayment of their bonds at face value.

Can a poison put provision be included in any type of bond?

Yes, poison put provisions can be included in various types of bonds, including corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and government bonds. However, the inclusion of such provisions may affect the bond’s credit rating and marketability, so companies must carefully consider the implications before issuing bonds with poison put covenants.

Do poison puts have any limitations or restrictions?

While poison puts can be effective takeover defense mechanisms, they also have limitations and restrictions that companies need to be aware of. For example, some jurisdictions may impose regulatory restrictions on the use of poison puts, and bondholders may challenge the validity of the provision in court if they believe it unfairly prejudices their rights.

How do poison puts differ from other types of poison pill defenses?

Unlike traditional poison pill defenses, such as shareholder rights plans, poison puts do not directly affect the company’s stock or voting rights. Instead, they impact the company’s financial obligations by allowing bondholders to demand early repayment of their bonds in the event of a hostile takeover. Additionally, poison puts can be tailored to specific circumstances and objectives, offering companies greater flexibility in their defensive strategies.

Are poison puts a foolproof defense against hostile takeovers?

While poison puts can make hostile takeovers more costly and difficult to execute, they are not foolproof defenses. Determined acquirers may still attempt to overcome the financial hurdles posed by poison puts, either by negotiating with bondholders or by pursuing alternative strategies. Additionally, poison puts may have unintended consequences, such as diluting existing shareholders’ equity or damaging the company’s credit rating.

Key takeaways

  • Poison puts are a defensive mechanism used by target companies to deter hostile takeovers.
  • Bondholders have the right to redeem their bonds at face value before maturity if trigger events occur.
  • Legal and regulatory considerations play a crucial role in the implementation of poison put provisions.
  • Alternative takeover defense strategies, such as crown jewel and Pac-Man defenses, offer additional options for companies.
  • Understanding the implications of poison puts on shareholder value and corporate governance is essential for informed decision-making.

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