Breakingviews

Altice’s $9 bln U.S. foray shows controlled ambition

May 20, 2015

Patrick Drahi’s telecoms group is paying 10.1 times EBITDA to enter the U.S. cable market. But cost-cutting should reduce the multiple, and it could be a springboard for further consolidation. It’s a more conservative step than another mooted deal: a tilt at Time Warner Cable.

BP and Total find downstream respite

April 28, 2015

Strong results in refining and marketing limited the profit fall at the two European majors. With the oil price down, the gains are especially welcome. But downstream overcapacity will bite in the medium term, while upstream businesses remain hostage to the oil market.

French investment banking has less than meets eye

April 23, 2015

Returns at BNP Paribas’ and Societe Generale’s trading and advisory businesses are better than peers. But the pair’s divisions carry less equity against gross assets than rivals. Before dashing in, investors should consider what the return would be with greater leverage restraint.

Hairy deals mean European animal spirits returning

April 15, 2015

Shell-BG and Nokia-Alcatel are complicated, long-mooted deals finally coming to fruition. Exor’s move is just plain ballsy. American firms powered last year’s $3.5 trln global M&A bonanza. With Old World boards and bosses becoming more daring, Europe looks set to catch up.

Nokia will struggle to cut through Alcatel tangle

April 14, 2015

An all-stock takeover by the Finnish company would create a roughly 40 bln euro telecoms equipment giant. Nokia investors are understandably sceptical. A deal would mean another big restructuring and stretch the buyer’s industrial expertise. The French connection adds complexity.

Hermes shares look too glossy

March 25, 2015

The French group weathered luxury market headwinds well in 2014 and will pay a 530 mln euro special dividend. Rivals Kering and LVMH were hit harder but are recovering. That makes the silk tie-maker’s luxury valuation of 32 times forward earnings more difficult to justify.

Holcim can push for more in Lafarge tie-up

March 13, 2015

The Swiss cement group is outperforming its French rival, creating cracks in their $44 bln union. A special dividend or higher exchange ratio could fix matters. That is more likely to happen than deal failure, given that both sides would suffer if it fell apart.

French telco buyout shows dealmaker in a hurry

March 2, 2015

Vivendi is selling its residual 20 pct in Numericable-SFR to the mobile operator itself and parent Altice for 3.9 bln euros. This helps Altice’s billionaire boss Patrick Drahi prepare for a follow-on deal with Bouygues. It’s harder to see why Vivendi would accept a big markdown.

ECB, Syriza have broken euro zone’s German spell

January 27, 2015

The European Central Bank’s easing and the Greek anti-austerity party’s electoral victory show the euro zone is breaking free of German dominance. With loose monetary policy and banking union, it seems ready for growth-friendly policies that don’t ignore economic reality.

Response to Paris attacks caught between two risks

January 8, 2015

The killings at the Charlie Hebdo weekly put French and European authorities at the confluence of two dangers – individual acts of violence and excessive countermeasures. Fringe parties may benefit if the response is too weak. Media freedom might suffer if it is too strong.