BCE deal gets a busy signal

May 19, 2008

bce.jpgBanks financing the $34.8 billion private equity buyout of BCE have been hammering away all weekend to win higher interest rates, tighter loan restrictions and stronger protections that far exceed the original terms, according to the New York Times. Citing people on both sides of the transaction, the paper said talks began to fray late on Friday but lasted all weekend. “It’s patently obvious that the banks have no intention of closing the deal,” said one executive who read the revised terms. Investors have long worried that the massive private equity buyout might be repriced, delayed or abandoned altogether. Looming over the discussions is the spectre of the Clear Channel deal, in which some of the very same lenders also tried to back out, producing an ugly tangle of court cases that was only resolved last week.

Microsoft said it proposed an alternative deal to Yahoo rather than a full acquisition, but a person who knows the mind of Carl Icahn, the man driving trying to unseat Yahoo’s board, said the move was likely to prompt the billionaire investor to nudge Yahoo back toward Google. This source isn’t just familiar with the matter, but has a taste for rustic allusions: “Microsoft is trying to get the milk without buying the cow, and if you look at Icahn’s history, he has never been used that way.” Microsoft did not clarify what that alternative deal might be.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed his company’s independent spirit, after a report said the social networking site might be sold to software giant Microsoft, which is hunting for ways to beef up its Internet business. “You can tell, from our history and what we’ve done, that we really wanted to keep the company independent, by focusing on building and focusing on the long-term,” Zuckerberg told Reuters while in Japan to launch a Japanese language version of Facebook. Microsoft already has a small stake and the Wall Street Journal said this month the software giant, with the Yahoo deal in limbo, had approached Facebook to gauge its interest in a full takeover.

U.S. diversified manufacturer Manitowoc has increased its bid for British kitchen equipment maker Enodis to $2.1 billion to trump a rival offer. Manitowoc, which makes cranes and restaurant equipment, said it was offering 294 pence a share for Enodis, topping an agreed bid of 282 pence a share from U.S. rival Illinois Tool Works. The offer from ITW beat an earlier bid of 260 pence a share from Manitowoc. Enodis, which makes fryers for fast food groups such as McDonald’s and Burger King, will also pay an interim dividend of 2 pence a share.

Other deals of the day:

* The direct banking arm of Dutch financial services group ING Group is offering 416 million euros ($644 million) in cash for Germany’s Interhyp to expand its global business.

* France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen said it would invest between 300 million euros and 350 million euros ($467.9-545.9 million) in a Russian joint venture with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

* The Czech government will demand at least 100 billion crowns ($6.2 billion) from the winning bidder for Prague Airport, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said in a newspaper interview.

* Cyprus Trading Corp agreed to buy up to 50 percent of local mobile telephone operator Areeba Ltd from South Africa’s MTN, CTC said.

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