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Battling the Bosses: The Rise of the Activist Investor

Do investors that buy poorly performing companies and then lobby for change do any good - or are they just stripping the flesh off well-run companies for short-term gain?

We take a look at the growing international phenomenon of the activist investor. They hunt down companies they think are under-performing, buy a stake and then lobby for change. It can be aggressive, it can get ugly, and it is on the rise.

The number of activist campaigns in the US has grown from 104 in 2000 to 487 in 2015, according to a Credit Suisse report. The targets of these investors are becoming increasingly diverse, and activism has now spread into Europe and Asia. Companies from Yahoo to Apple to Rolls Royce have all been affected. Critics say activists are bad for companies and shareholders in the long-term, and detrimental to society as a whole. But activists say they provide a valuable service, holding poorly performing boards to account, and increasing shareholder profit.

The BBC's Ed Butler asks our panel of experts: Who really benefits in the long-term from activist activity? He's joined from Singapore by Dr Lawrence Loh, Director of the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations at the National University of Singapore Business School, and by two guests in Washington DC - Nell Minow, Vice-chair of ValueEdge Advisors and David Langstaff, former founder of Veridian and former CEO of TASC.

(Photo: Man in business suit with boxing gloves on. Credit: Thinkstock)

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