Only Cheerleaders Need Apply

August 25, 2008

A member of professional cheerleading squad practises for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Dachang CountyThe yo-yo that is Lehman Brothers’ stock took another spill before the market opened on Monday, after a top South Korean regulator threw cold water on the idea of a state bank buying the battle-scarred Wall Street warrior. Financial Services Commission Chairman Jun Kwang-woo told reporters Korea Development Bank (KDB) should be a “cheerleader” and let local private banks take the lead in any such purchase. KDB’s interest lit a rocket under Lehman’s shares on Friday. When asked about the status of KDB’s possible interest in Lehman Jun said: “That would be an international marriage. Would you get married just after one or two blind dates?” A couple of blind dates might be a step up from the shot-gun buyouts that South Korea’s banks faced after the Asia crisis.

Canada’s Precision Drilling Trust will buy U.S. driller Grey Wolf for $2 billion in cash and stock, creating one of the largest North American oil and gas rig operators. The announcement comes a month after Grey Wolf shareholders voted down a proposed purchase of well-servicing company Basic Energy Services. Precision Drilling, Canada’s largest oil and gas driller, first made an unsolicited purchase offer for Grey Wolf in June. News that a deal had been struck emerged on Sunday. Based on financial results through June, the combined companies will have annual revenue of $1.8 billion.

Germany’s Commerzbank could buy insurer Allianz‘s Dresdner Bank possibly by the end of this month, according to a source familiar with the situation at the bank. German weekly Welt am Sonntag said an agreement between the two was possible within the coming week. The two companies had agreed on the basic principles of the transaction, according to the paper, which said Commerzbank would buy Dresdner for slightly more than 9 billion euros ($13.38 billion) and Allianz would vouch for writedowns on the balance sheet of Dresdner of up to 1 billion euros. The sums were still being negotiated. Allianz would have a stake of slightly less than 30 percent in the merged bank, the report also said.

Australia has approved Chinese aluminum giant Chinalco‘s recent purchase of a minority stake in Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, but warned the Chinese firm against buying more shares without prior approval. State-owned Aluminium Corp of China (Chinalco), backed by U.S. peer Alcoa, began amassing shares this year with the aim of taking up to 14.9 percent of Rio, the target of a $127 billion takeover bid from rival BHP Billiton. Treasurer Wayne Swan said Chinalco had already vowed not to raise its stake above 14.99 percent without receiving fresh government approval and, secondly, not to seek to appoint a director to Rio Tinto’s board. Rio Tinto is at the center of a tug-of-war that reflects China’s anxiety over BHP Billiton’s proposed all-share bid for Rio, which would create a titan unrivaled in its degree of control over a wide range of industrial commodities. Rio is a major aluminum producer and both it and BHP are global suppliers of copper, but China’s biggest concern about the takeover bid surrounds iron ore, which is used in steel-making.

Other deals of the day:

* Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings is expanding its food business in Australia through unit National Foods’ $780 million acquisition of Dairy Farmers, helping it diversify away from a shrinking domestic beer market as Japan’s population ages.

* Lufthansa has formally announced its interest in acquiring a stake on offer in Austrian Airlines, a spokesman for the German carrier said. OeIAG is offering its 43 percent share in Austrian, worth around 157 million euros ($233.4 million), but said the size of the stake sold would depend on preserving an Austrian group of core shareholders owning 25 percent between them.

* Irish food group Glanbia said it would spend $315 million to buy Optimum Nutrition Inc, a U.S. maker of supplements for body builders, which will use by-products of its cheese manufacturing.

* Singapore Telecommunications said it has bought a 60 percent stake in Singapore Computer Systems for S$140 million ($99 million) as it seeks to boost its IT business.

* Norwegian shipping group DOF ASA said that uncertainty in the financial market had forced it to re-evaluate a planned buyout of offshore services group DOF Subsea.

* MLP Chief Executive Uwe Schroeder-Wildberg was quoted by Swiss finance newspaper Cash Daily as saying he believes Swiss Life‘s plan to take over the German financial adviser would fail.

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