Breakingviews

Activist + private equity = no M&A for Symantec

February 5, 2016

The internet security group netted $5.3 bln from selling Veritas. Pressured by Elliott, it’s now borrowing $500 mln from Silver Lake and returning all the cash to investors rather than keeping a war chest. Symantec’s questionable dealmaking record makes the straitjacket merited.

ChemChina can reap rewards of new stance on GMOs

February 4, 2016

Buying Syngenta will thaw China’s hostility towards genetically modified organisms. Nationalist fears about food safety will ring hollow once the seeds are in Chinese hands. The buyer will be able to push into a huge new market – but so, in time, will rivals like Monsanto.

ChemChina’s Syngenta bid is prickly for Monsanto

February 2, 2016

The state-owned group is nearing a $42 bln deal for the Swiss seeds and pesticides group. The cash and friendly nature make it better than a similarly valued offer from Monsanto. The U.S. company could improve its bid or turn its attention to BASF. Neither M&A option looks easy.

Alere board’s diligence brings 51 pct premium

February 1, 2016

A $5.8 bln sale to $56 bln healthcare group Abbott caps a series of good decisions. Appointing a separate chairman, jettisoning Alere’s deal-hungry founder, rejecting his low-ball bid and focusing the business all helped. It shows what engaged investors and directors can achieve.

Unselfish Xerox boss hands bragging rights to Icahn

January 29, 2016

Ursula Burns says the activist wasn’t involved in the board’s decision to split the $9 bln company. But he’s getting board seats at one offshoot. And Burns, unusually, hasn’t yet grabbed a role in the new structure. That’s a shareholders-first approach other CEOs could emulate.

Murdoch’s second season could be good for Sky

January 29, 2016

Four years after resigning at the height of a phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch is back as chairman of the pay-TV group. That may rattle minority investors, but Murdoch has proven himself. It would be an odd move if Fox planned to buy the 61 percent of the company it doesn’t own.

Johnson-Tyco inversion is insured against politics

January 25, 2016

U.S. building-controls maker Johnson Controls’ $16 bln purchase of Ireland-domiciled Tyco risks becoming a target for critics of tax-reducing deals. But with an expected $500 mln of yearly savings and a low 11 pct premium for Tyco’s owners, tax savings are gravy, not meat.

How Symantec let bad math lead to a shaky deal

January 21, 2016

Carlyle’s buyout of the software company’s Veritas unit was never actually worth the $8 bln headline figure. Excessive leverage was dressed up to make it look workable. Even the new 8 pct price cut is misleading. Boards and investors can help themselves by getting M&A sums right.

Wanda’s Hollywood ambitions show legendary savvy

January 5, 2016

The Chinese entertainment group is adding the U.S. studio behind “Jurassic World” to a portfolio that includes a Spanish soccer team and Ironman races. Buying Legendary Entertainment should help fill seats in its cinemas globally – and perhaps even bolster China’s soft power.

Healthcare M&A will wear down in 2016

January 4, 2016

Obamacare and tax avoidance spurred over $550 bln of U.S. deals in 2015. That’s three times more than the previous record. With the obvious combinations already struck, acquisitive companies hurting and trustbusters sharpening their pencils, a repeat will be challenging.