RPT-Activist investors head to Europe with more demands -research group

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NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Activist investors stepped up their engagement in Europe and put $7.6 billion to work there in the first quarter alone while making more calls for corporate sales and takeovers than last year, new data from research group Activist Insight shows.

The $7.6 billion that mostly U.S. firms, including New York-based Elliott Management, invested during the first three months of 2018 marks the biggest start to the year since 2015, the data shows.

Activist investors committed $6.49 billion in Europe in the first quarter of 2017 and $5.19 billion in the first three months of 2016. In 2015 they put $14.97 billion to work in the first quarter in European companies.

Europe has become increasingly popular with activists as companies are seen to be relatively inexpensive and there are other U.S.-based investors involved like mutual fund Fidelity that the activists are already acquainted with, experts said.

At the same time foreign activists are more likely to push for mergers and acquisitions at European companies, Activist Insight found, noting that Elliott last year urged Dutch paint and chemicals maker Akzo Nobel to talk with rival PPG Industries, which made a takeover bid.

In the first three quarters of 2018, activists have called for M&A to take place on 17 occasions, compared with 15 requests during the same time a year earlier, the data shows.

“The allocation of significant resources to Europe by U.S. activists and improved receptivity to their role ensures that the coming year will likely be another noteworthy one in the development of this market,” said Josh Black, an analyst at Activist Insight, which tracks activist fund managers and their activities. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss Editing by Tom Brown)