Pre-emption Right

Pre-emption Right
Pre-emption Right
Full Overview Of Pre-emption Right

A pre-emption right, also known as a right of first refusal, is a contractual right that allows an individual or entity to purchase property before the owner can sell it to someone else. This right is often seen in property transactions, business agreements, and corporate law.

At DLS Solicitors, we understand pre-emption rights’ critical role in protecting interests and facilitating fair transactions. This comprehensive overview explores the principles, legal framework, procedures, and strategic considerations associated with pre-emption rights.


Pre-emption rights are governed by various laws and regulations designed to ensure fairness and transparency in transactions involving these rights. The legal framework encompasses statutory provisions, common law principles, and contractual agreements.

Companies Act 2006

The Companies Act 2006 provides statutory provisions for pre-emption rights in the context of share issuances. It grants existing shareholders the right to purchase new shares before they are offered to new investors, thus preventing dilution of their ownership.

Common Law Principles

Common law principles underpin many pre-emption rights, particularly in property transactions. These principles ensure that the holder of the pre-emption right has a fair opportunity to purchase the property under similar terms as would be offered to a third party.

Contractual Agreements

Pre-emption rights are often embedded in contractual agreements between parties. These contracts outline the specific terms and conditions under which the pre-emption right can be exercised, providing clarity and enforceability.

Importance of Pre-emption Rights

Pre-emption rights play a crucial role in various transactions, offering significant benefits to the holders and ensuring fair dealing in transferring property and shares.

Protection Against Dilution

In corporate settings, pre-emption rights protect existing shareholders from diluting their ownership by giving them the first opportunity to purchase new shares. This ensures that their percentage of ownership remains stable.

Control Over Property Transfers

In property transactions, pre-emption rights allow individuals or entities to maintain control over who acquires the property. This can be particularly important in family businesses, partnerships, or communities where maintaining certain ownership structures is desirable.

Fair Value Transactions

Pre-emption rights ensure that the holder has the opportunity to purchase the property or shares at a fair market value, preventing the owner from selling to a third party at a preferential price.

4. Strategic Advantage

For businesses, holding pre-emption rights can provide a strategic advantage, allowing them to acquire valuable assets or shares without competition from third parties.

Types of Pre-emption Rights

There are several types of pre-emption rights, each serving different purposes and operating under various contexts. Understanding these types is essential for effectively managing and exercising these rights.

Property Pre-emption Rights

These rights give an individual or entity the first opportunity to purchase property before offering it to others. They are common in lease agreements, joint ventures, and family arrangements.

Shareholder Pre-emption Rights

These rights, often embedded in company articles of association or shareholder agreements, give existing shareholders the first opportunity to purchase new shares before they are offered to external investors.

Commercial Contracts

In commercial contracts, pre-emption rights can be included to ensure that business partners or joint venture participants have the first right to purchase interests in the business or specific assets.

The Process of Exercising Pre-emption Rights

Exercising pre-emption rights involves several stages, each requiring careful attention to detail and adherence to the terms of the agreement or statutory provisions.

Notice of Intention to Sell

The owner of the property or shares must provide formal notice of their intention to sell. This notice should include details of the proposed sale, including the price and terms offered by the third party.

Offer to Pre-emption Right Holder

The pre-emption right holder is given the first opportunity to purchase the property or shares under the same terms as those offered to the third party. The offer must be made in accordance with the terms of the pre-emption agreement or statutory requirements.

Decision Period

The pre-emption right holder is typically given a specified period to decide whether to exercise their right. This period is often defined in the agreement and should allow sufficient time for the holder to assess the offer and arrange financing if necessary.

Acceptance and Completion

If the pre-emption right holder decides to exercise their right, they must formally accept the offer within the specified period. The transaction then proceeds to completion under the agreed terms, with the holder purchasing the property or shares.

Lapse of Pre-emption Right

If the pre-emption right holder decides not to exercise their right, or fails to respond within the specified period, the owner is free to sell the property or shares to the third party under the same terms.

Key Considerations in Managing Pre-emption Rights

Several key considerations are essential for effectively managing pre-emption rights:

Clear Agreement Terms

The terms of the pre-emption right should be clearly defined in the agreement. This includes the notice period, the offer method, and the time allowed for the holder to decide. Clear terms prevent disputes and ensure smooth transactions.

Timely Communication

Timely communication between the parties is crucial for exercising pre-emption rights. The owner must provide prompt notice of their intention to sell, and the holder must respond within the specified period.

Valuation and Fair Pricing

Ensuring that the price offered to the pre-emption right holder is fair and reflects the market value is essential. This prevents valuation disputes and ensures that the holder is not disadvantaged.

Legal Compliance

Compliance with legal requirements and statutory provisions is crucial for the validity and enforceability of pre-emption rights. This includes adhering to the terms of the Companies Act 2006 for shareholder pre-emption rights and any relevant property laws.

Professional Advice

Seeking professional advice from solicitors and financial advisors can provide valuable guidance on managing and exercising pre-emption rights. Professional advice ensures compliance with legal requirements and helps address any issues that may arise.

Benefits of Pre-emption Rights

Pre-emption rights offer numerous benefits, providing protection and strategic advantages for the holders and ensuring fair transactions.

Protection of Ownership Interests

Pre-emption rights protect the ownership interests of shareholders and property owners by giving them the first opportunity to purchase additional shares or property. This prevents dilution of ownership and maintains control over valuable assets.

Fair Market Value Transactions

By ensuring that the pre-emption right holder can purchase the property or shares at a fair market value, these rights promote fair dealing and prevent preferential treatment of third parties.

Strategic Business Opportunities

Holding pre-emption rights provides strategic opportunities for businesses to acquire valuable assets or shares without competition. This can enhance the business’s growth and competitive position.

Reduced Uncertainty

Pre-emption rights reduce transaction uncertainty by providing a clear process for exercising the right. This clarity helps prevent disputes and ensures that transactions proceed smoothly.

Challenges and Considerations

While pre-emption rights provide significant benefits, they also present certain challenges and considerations:

Complexity of Agreements

The complexity of pre-emption agreements can lead to misunderstandings and disputes. Ensuring that all parties clearly define and understand the terms is essential for preventing issues.

Valuation Disputes

Disputes over the valuation of property or shares can arise if the parties disagree on the fair market value. Engaging professional valuers and having clear valuation methods in the agreement can help prevent these disputes.

Timeliness and Response

The timeliness of responses and the ability to arrange financing within the specified period can be challenging for pre-emption right holders. Ensuring the holder is prepared and has access to necessary resources is crucial.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is essential for the validity and enforceability of pre-emption rights. Ensuring that all procedures are followed correctly can prevent legal challenges.

Case Studies and Examples

Family-Owned Property

A family-owned property had a pre-emption right clause allowing family members the first opportunity to purchase the property before it could be sold to an outsider. When the property owner decided to sell, they notified all eligible family members. One family member exercised their pre-emption right, purchasing the property at the market value offered by a third-party buyer. This maintained family ownership and avoided external sales.

Corporate Share Issuance

A company issuing new shares included a pre-emption right for existing shareholders in its articles of association. When the company decided to raise additional capital by issuing new shares, it offered the shares to existing shareholders first. This prevented dilution of their ownership and allowed shareholders to maintain their proportional stake in the company.

Commercial Property Joint Venture

In a joint venture involving commercial property, the partners included a pre-emption right in their agreement. When one partner decided to exit the joint venture and sell their interest, they offered it to the remaining partner first. The remaining partner exercised their right to purchase the interest and maintain full control over the property.

Several legal instruments and safeguards ensure the effective implementation and reliability of pre-emption rights:

Clear Contractual Terms

Clear and precise contractual terms outlining the pre-emption right, including notice periods, offer methods, and decision periods, are essential for preventing disputes and ensuring enforceability.

Professional Valuation

Engaging professional valuers to determine the fair market value of the property or shares ensures that the offer is fair and prevents valuation disputes.

Legal Advice and Representation

Seeking legal advice and representation ensures that the pre-emption right is properly documented and that all legal requirements are met. Solicitors can provide guidance on drafting agreements and managing the process.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Including dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation or arbitration, in the agreement provides a structured process for addressing any disagreements that arise. This helps prevent costly and time-consuming legal battles.

Best Practices

Adopting best practices can enhance the effectiveness and success of managing pre-emption rights:

Early and Clear Communication

Early and clear communication between the owner and the pre-emption right holder is crucial to ensure the process proceeds smoothly. Providing prompt notice and clear information about the offer helps prevent misunderstandings.

Thorough Documentation

Thorough documentation of the pre-emption right, including the terms of the agreement and the process for exercising the right, provides clarity and prevents disputes. Ensuring that all agreements are well-documented and legally sound is essential.

Regular Review and Updates

Regularly reviewing and updating the terms of the pre-emption right agreement ensures that it remains relevant and effective. This includes revisiting the terms in response to changes in market conditions or legal requirements.

Professional Advice

Seeking professional advice from solicitors and financial advisors provides valuable guidance on managing and exercising pre-emption rights. Professional advice helps ensure compliance with legal requirements and addresses any issues that arise.


Pre-emption rights are a vital tool in various transactions, offering protection and strategic advantages for the holders and ensuring fair dealing in the transfer of property and shares. By understanding the legal framework, procedures, and strategic considerations associated with pre-emption rights, individuals and businesses can effectively manage these rights and ensure successful outcomes.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing comprehensive support and guidance to clients navigating the complexities of pre-emption rights. Whether dealing with property transactions, corporate share issuances, or commercial agreements, our expertise ensures that clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

By adopting best practices, seeking professional advice, and maintaining clear communication, clients can effectively manage pre-emption rights and achieve positive outcomes. Pre-emption rights, when managed correctly, provide transparency, predictability, and legal compliance, ensuring smooth and successful transactions.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th July 2024.

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