Coke’s juicy China premium

September 3, 2008

A customer takes a bottle of Coca-Cola next to packets of Huiyuan fruit juice at a supermarket in JinanCoke pulled off the single largest takeover in Chinese history overnight, offering to buy juice maker Huiyuan for three times what the company was worth. Braving a notoriously difficult foreign M&A environment, where the state dominates the corporate sector and pumps out reams of regulatory red tape and where nationalistic pride often triggers protests when foreign firms gain influence over domestic firms. Since capitalism is good these days, that premium should go a long way toward suppressing any nationalistic distaste with the deal. Interesting to note that Chinese inbound corporate deals so far are up 30 percent from a year ago, to $15.3 billion.

Hedge fund manager Ospraie Management will close its flagship fund after it plunged 27 percent in August on losses in energy, mining and natural resources equity holdings, in one of the biggest ever closures of a commodities-focused hedge fund. The closure of the fund, announced by the firm’s founder Dwight Anderson in a letter to investors on Tuesday, could be more bad news for Lehman Brothers, which took a 20 percent stake in the hedge fund manager in 2005. One expert said the closure of the fund, which at the time of the letter’s writing had lost 38.59 percent this year, may also have played a role in bringing down U.S. stocks yesterday, which fell after initially climbing more than 1 percent. Lehman shares were down more than 3 percent in after-hours trading.

Other deals of the day:

* South Korea’s military savings fund would consider joining Korea Development Bank in a bid for Lehman Brothers if KDB made such an offer, as now appears a good time for U.S. investments, the fund’s chairman said.

* Friends Provident, Britain’s smallest blue-chip life insurer, will not sell its Lombard and F&C units if it cannot get a good price, recently appointed chief executive Trevor Matthews said.

* Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group will likely fold one of its small consumer finance units into affiliate Acom, a newspaper said, the latest move by a Japanese bank to strengthen its position in the struggling consumer lending market. Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan’s largest bank, will seek to merge unlisted DC Cash One with Acom, the Nikkei newspaper said.

* Irish supermarket group Superquinn has received six expressions of interest from potential bidders, including Britain’s Asda and J Sainsbury, the Irish Times newspaper said.

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