Situation Normal All Fouled Up

October 24, 2008

Tokyo stocks tumbled nearly 10 percent, the Hang Seng off more than 8 percent, S&P futures limit down and oil tumbled another five dollars despite production cuts. It’s little wonder that rumors of a market holiday grew louder in London. 
On the firefighting front, a Treasury source tells us that the bank-funding hypodermic is filled up and ready to be injected into another group of banks, and AIG is reported to have pretty much burned through the $90 billion in bailout funds it got a month ago.
Both the Nasdaq and NYSE say they will open as normal, and a talking head on CNBC suggested that current market conditions could prompt a bounce in U.S. markets.  Given how far out of whack everything seems, that view may wind up being the most rational take on the markets of the day.
Deals of the day:
* A number of parties are interested in the private equity stakes being sold by Lehman Brothers, said a source familiar with the matter. Goldman Sachs, which has one of the world’s largest private equity businesses, is one of the potential bidders, a second source said. A Bloomberg report named Coller Capital and Lexington Partners as other firms weighing bids, citing people with knowledge of the situation. 
* Jupitermedia said it will sell its online images business to Getty Images for $96 million in cash, leaving it to focus exclusively on its online media division. 
* Mining group BHP Billiton said the current economic turmoil may throw up takeover opportunities, but only small deals would be considered, its CEO said. 
* New Zealand’s Port of Tauranga is expecting rival Ports of Auckland to bid for its container business, it said, as a declining shipping business has port operators looking at consolidation. 
* The Dutch government has no intention of selling the Dutch banking operation of Fortis and will proceed with its planned integration with ABN AMRO, a Finance Ministry spokesman said. 
* The Dutch government has no intention of selling the Dutch banking operation of Fortis and will proceed with its planned integration with ABN AMRO, a Finance Ministry spokesman said. 
* Russia’s anti-trust watchdog rejected on Thursday a $140 million bid by Google to buy the Begun advertising agency, claiming the deal would reduce competition in the online advertising market. 
* EnCana, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, said it will not revisit its postponed plans to split into natural gas and oil sands arms until turmoil from the credit crisis calms.
* Italian fashion group Mariella Burani has been approached by potential investors from the Middle East but has not yet had any formal offer, it said in a statement. 
* Iceland’s Straumur-Burdaras said it had reached a deal to buy the rights to the name of London-based investment bank Teathers, and said it plans to hire about half of its 190 employees.
* Russian aluminum major RUSAL will defer a $700 million tranche to billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov for the purchase of his stake in mining giant Norilsk Nickel as it could not meet the Friday deadline.
* The Australian government has approved a takeover of St George Bank, the country’s fifth-biggest lender, by larger rival Westpac Banking, Treasurer Wayne Swan said.
* Ticketmaster agreed to acquire a majority interest in Front Line Management and install its head Irving Azoff as chief executive of the combined company, the Wall Street Journal said. 
* Norway’s oil group Det norske oljeselskap said it was selling its 10 percent stake in Yme field licences to Polish peer Lotos. 
* Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech expects the takeover by Porsche to move ahead smoothly and played down in a newspaper interview any differences in his extended family that owns Porsche. 
* The European Commission will approve an Italian investor group’s takeover plan for struggling airline Alitalia but not a 300 million euro ($386 million) state loan, la Repubblica newspaper said. 
* Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot has asked the transport ministry to support its takeover of airline S7, which may bid for Austrian Airlines, Interfax reported, citing Aeroflot. 
* GlaxoSmithKline stepped up its drive to acquire more biotech assets by buying the rights to an Austrian biotech company’s experimental therapeutic vaccines against Alzheimer’s disease. 
* Interactive entertainment company Bright Things said it signed a relationship agreement for its social network site SocialGo with widget maker WidgetLaboratory, sending shares up nearly 67 percent.
* Greek lenders Piraeus Bank and Proton Bank said their boards had agreed to cancel a share swap agreement, after Proton said it would seek to take part in a government bank rescue plan. 
* U.S.-Swedish bourse operator Nasdaq has won final approval to buy Nordic power exchange Nord Pool’s international business, Nord Pool said. 
* AIM-listed media company Coolabi said it conditionally agreed to acquire Licensing by Design Ltd (LBD) for 400,000 pounds ($652,800) in cash, sending Coolabi shares up nearly 13 percent. 
* Ukraine’s Prominvestbank, which some Ukrainian officials have said could be nationalised, said it hoped to find a buyer in the next few days. 
* Spanish vending machines group Azkoyen said it expects to control 50 percent of German technology group Primion by Friday after announcing a full bid for the company in September. 
* Italian regional utility Hera is still open to tie-up talks with a merged Iride and Enia, Hera Chairman Tomaso Tommasi di Vignano said. 
* French food group Danone is set to sell its Frucor fruit juice unit by the end of the month and will garner almost 600 million euros ($771 million) from the sale, a source close to the talks told Reuters. 
* British publishing group Pearson said it was raising its stake in South Africa’s Maskew Miller Longman (MML) to 85 percent from 50 percent, forming a new educational publishing unit in the region.

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