A-courtin’ we will go

July 16, 2008

Wedding ornamentLike a bad soap opera, the Internet storyline is getting more and more convoluted. The tale so far: Microsoft Corp, spurned by Yahoo Inc, is courting Time Warner Inc to allow a union with Internet division AOL. But Yahoo, which turned its back on Microsoft’s $47.5 billion bid, also wants AOL’s hand. These talks have taken on a new urgency ahead of Yahoo’s Aug. 1 shareholders meeting, a source familiar with discussions told Reuters on Tuesday. How either marriage will work is not immediately clear, but any combination will likely redraw the landscape for advertising on the Internet. So why is AOL so attractive? Both Yahoo and Microsoft view it as beneficial to leverage their positions in the Internet marketplace, where search giant Google Inc dominates. Stay tuned.

But good soaps are not only made in America. It seems the Germans are good at them, too. Tires-to-brakes maker Continental rejected Schaeffler Group’s surprise 11.2 billion euro ($17.8 billion) bid, saying only the family owned firm stood to gain from the offer which was too low. Late on Tuesday, the ball-bearing maker announced the terms of its proposed takeover after winning control of more than a third of Continental’s shares through a web of options organized for it discretely by banks. Schaeffler’s bearings are found in London’s landmark Ferris wheel, the London Eye and it also makes high-precision bearing supports for the U.S. space shuttle and the European launch vehicle Ariane, not that that has any bearing on a deal.

Some suitors, however, do get lucky. Mining company Cleveland-Cliffs Inc said on Wednesday it would acquire Alpha Natural Resources Inc for about $10 billion in cash and stock to expand its coal assets. Stockholders of Alpha, an Appalachian coal producer, will receive 0.95 of a Cleveland-Cliffs common share and $22.23 in cash for each of their common shares when the union is completed. Based on closing stock prices on Tuesday, the deal values Alpha at $128.12 per share, a premium of 35 percent, the companies said in a statement. The combined company will be renamed Cliffs Natural Resources and will include nine iron ore facilities and more than 60 coal mines located across North America, South America and Australia.

More deals of the day:

** Shareholders of utilities Suez and Gaz de France are set to approve a long-delayed 100-billion euro ($159.5 billion) merger, creating Europe’s second-largest electricity and gas group.

** The Co-Operative Group has agreed a long-awaited deal to buy Somerfield for 1.57 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) to strengthen its position as Britain’s fifth-biggest food retailer.

** Russian real estate company LSR said it had acquired a property developer in Yekaterinburg in the Urals region for 100 million euros ($159.5 million).

** Bank Hapoalim, one of Israel’s largest banks, said it was in advanced talks to buy at least 75 percent of Russian mid-sized SDM Bank at a value of $142 million.

** Irish healthcare services company United Drug said it had bought U.S. packaging maker Sharp Corporation for $99 million in cash.

** The board of Australian energy firm Roma Petroleum NL said shareholders should accept the revised A$49.4 million ($48.4 million) takeover offer from Queensland Gas Co Ltd.

** Parsvnath Developers Ltd said it will invest 4 billion rupees for a 38 percent stake in the Nanocity project in northern India.

** Shares in SK Telecom, South Korea’s top mobile carrier, fell early after a CNBC report that it was negotiating to buy Sprint Nextel Corp , the No. 3 U.S. mobile service.

** Swiss engineering group ABB said it will acquire U.S. transformer company Kuhlman Electric Corporation from private equity firm Carlyle Group for an undisclosed sum.

** EPIC Energy Ltd said it had acquired Sathian Sun Power Systems, a solar energy products supplier based in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, for an undisclosed sum.

** Airbus said it has agreed to set up a venture with Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG), the parent of Hafei Aviation Industry Co, to make aircraft components.

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