DealZone

Deals wrap: Shell games

August 1, 2011

A new Reuters investigative report takes a deeper look at a niche industry of advisers who specialize in so-called “reverse merger” deals that use shell companies to give clients easy entry into U.S. capital markets. As correspondents Nanette Byrnes and Lynnley Browning report, more than 400 Chinese companies have been listed in the U.S. over the course of the last decade by way of this back-door method. But, as their investigation shows, a recent “spate of spectacular collapses of Chinese stocks listed on American exchanges has cost U.S. investors billions of dollars” and sparked multiple investigations into the practice.

Job cuts are on the way at HSBC. Europe’s biggest bank announced plans to axe 30,000 positions between now and the end of 2013 as it retreats from countries around the globe where it is struggling to compete. The first 5,000 cuts came as part of the company’s restructuring efforts across Latin America, the U.S., Britain, France and the Middle East. The bank, which posted a surprise rise in first-half profit on Monday, is reversing a strategy that had been criticized for “planting flags” around the world. CEO Stuart Gulliver’s far-reaching plan unveiled three months ago aims to slash costs and he intends to sell, shut or slim down retail banking in 39 countries. HSBC said on Sunday it would sell 195 U.S. branches to First Niagara Financial for about $1 billion in cash, and close another 13 of the 470 sites it had.

Peabody Energy and ArcelorMittal launched a hostile $5.2 billion bid for Macarthur Coal after the Australian target’s board said the approach undervalued the company and it was working on attracting a rival offer. Peabody, the largest U.S. coal company, and ArcelorMittal, the world’s top steelmaker, have been courting Macarthur to secure its resources of pulverized coal, a key steelmaking ingredient, but talks to get the backing of Macarthur’s board collapsed over the weekend.

Lansdowne Partners, one of Europe’s biggest hedge fund firms, has sold its $850 million stake in Goldman Sachs as part of a move out of investment banks burdened by regulation and into retail banks, a source close to the situation told Reuters.

A report emerged late last week on tech blog Boy Genius Report that cited an unproven source saying Apple is in talks to buy U.S. bookseller Barnes & Noble. Technologizer’s Harry McCracken takes a look back at the long list of past Apple acquisition rumors to make a point about how often they turn out to be untrue.

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