Gone Shopping

May 22, 2009

As Steve Slater and I wrote earlier:

“British bank Barclays has sidelined private equity houses bidding for iShares, its exchange-traded fund unit, and is looking to sell its entire asset management arm instead if offers approach $12 billion.

“U.S. money manager BlackRock and Bank of New York Mellon are among the interested bidders for Barclays Global Investors (BGI), the world’s biggest asset manager, people familiar with the matter said.”

Looking to boost its capital position and to justify its decision not to take state aid, Barclays is aiming to maximize the proceeds from any asset sales.

But BlackRock crashing the party to buy all of BGI is not necessarily the end for CVC or indeed any of the other private equity firms that are still serious about buying iShares.

Once a firm offer from BlackRock is on the table, the games can begin in earnest. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility for CVC to team up with another trade buyer and trump BlackRock with a consortium bid.¬† After all, it does have the right to match any rival¬†offers for iShares or all of BGI under the “go shop” clause that was inserted in the deal.

Barclays is one of the first European companies to use these clauses, which were a feature of the U.S. buyout market earlier this decade. Unlike many other leftovers from the boom years, this one looks like a smart move.

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