DealZone

Deals wrap: Conoco may double assets sale

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said it might double its planned sale of less-desirable assets to $20 billion, with proceeds going to buy back stock.

Conoco is executing a plan, first announced in late 2009, to increase shareholder value through debt reduction, stock buybacks and increased dividends. Conoco did not immediately specify what might be sold, but did say those assets targeted would be mature, high-cost projects.

Consumer goods group Colgate-Palmolive has agreed to pay around $940 million for Sanex, a shower gel and deodorant brand which owner Unilever had been ordered to sell. The sale comes just a week after Unilever announced it was stepping up new product launches to drive growth.

Corporate predators could find the beleaguered reinsurance sector offers attractive opportunities, provided they have the nerve to look beyond a round of bumper claims triggered by the Japanese earthquake. “The market was turning anyway, and the earthquake will shift it, which will obviously be a good entry point for private equity and for M&A activity on a wider basis,” said Barrie Cornes, insurance analyst at Panmure Gordon.

After its acquisitions of the Huffington Post and TechCrunch last year, AOL will begin the process of overhauling its family of content sites, reported All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher. AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong will reportedly issue an internal memo detailing the closing down of “dozens of its dedicated content sites — some being shuttered completely and others integrated with existing Huffington Post sites,” writes Swisher.

Deals wrap: Who will Sprint call?

A woman talks on her phone as she walks past T-mobile and Sprint wireless stores in New York July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidBankers said Sprint had a handful of options after AT&T swooped in to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, but none of them would give it the clout to compete in a market dominated by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which would collectively hold an almost 80 percent market share. Verizon Wireless CEO Daniel Mead said he had no interest in buying Sprint.

Charles Schwab will buy online brokerage optionsXpress Holdings in a $1 billion deal that gives Schwab a stable of the most active retail traders, as options continue to boom.

Shutterfly said it agreed to buy privately held card design company Tiny Prints in a $333 million cash-and-stock deal, as the photo-sharing service tries to win back customers in a market increasingly dominated by social networking sites like Facebook.

Deals wrap: AT&T’s crystal ball

The at&t logo is seen at their store in Times Sqaure in New York April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon StapletonAT&T’s surprise $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom will create a new leader in the U.S. mobile sector and likely draw scrutiny. The regulatory challenge will be predicting what the dominant form of communication will be 3 to 5 years from now, analyst Evan Stewart said. The deal will take a year to close, in which time customers are expected to see improved network quality, according to AT&T.

Sprint Nextel risks being further eclipsed by Verizon and the new AT&T, which together would boast 230.3 million customers in the U.S., compared to Sprint’s less than 50 million, writes Michael J. de la Merced and Jenna Wortham of The New York Times.

Citigroup plans to slash the number of common shares outstanding and reintroduce a dividend after suspending payouts two years ago, taking another step in its long recovery from the brink of failure during the financial crisis.

Deals wrap: Yoplait to split a yogurt with General Mills

General Mills cereals are displayed on a kitchen counter in Golden, Colorado December 17, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

After months of tense negotiations that involved members of the French government, management disputes and influence from an agricultural lobby General Mills is set to pay $1.12 billion for private equity fund PAI Partners half of the Yoplait yogurt brand.

The General Mills bid was attractive for several reasons. It has a long standing relationship with Yoplait, holding the license for the companies yogurt in the United States since 1977. General Mills was also able to pay for the transaction off its balance sheet. Sodiaal, which controls the other half of Yoplait, was also attracted to the idea that General Mills could use its international reach to boost sales in emerging markets, particularly India and China.

For its part General Mills protects its U.S. distribution rights and eliminates the risk of a competitor edging in on that business. The Deal Journal has some early market reaction.

Deals wrap: Groupon’s new deal, a $25 billion IPO

An online coupon sent via email from Groupon is pictured on a laptop screen November 29, 2010 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Daily deals website Groupon, which last year turned down a $6 billion bid from Google, has held talks with banks about an initial public offering that would value the company as high as $25 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The Chicago-based company ballooned to 50 million users in 2010 and is available in 500 cities in 40 countries. Not bad considering the two-year-old start-up was valued at $1.3 billion just last April.

Shira Ovide of the WSJ.com wonders if Groupon’s massive valuation, coupled with the reported $75 billion worth for Facebook, has the makings of another 1990′s tech bubble.

Deals wrap: Japan crisis may delay some IPOs

  The Glencore logo is seen on a sign in front of Swiss commodities trader Glencore building in Baar near Zurich January 5, 2010.

Extreme market volatility tends to make investors a jittery bunch. The deadly earthquakes and nuclear crisis in Japan will obviously have an immediate impact there, but the fallout from the catastrophe is expected to spread across the globe where it could delay or even cancel a slew of new share offerings and debt deals.

According to IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication, one major deal in the pipeline that’s at risk of cancellation is the planned $6-$8 billion London-Hong Kong IPO of Swiss commodity trading group, Glencore, a deal expected in May.

Institutional investors will be demanding a higher return on their investments, forcing stock and bond deals to expect lower valuations, or face being pulled all together. Glencore’s IPO may be the victim of bad timing.

Deals wrap: Nasdaq getting hostile with NYSE

Chief Executive Officer of The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. Robert Greifeld speaks at a news conference at the Nasdaq headquarters in New York, April 22, 2005.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc, not wanting to be left out in the cold of the global mergers frenzy among exchanges, is closer to making a counter-bid for NYSE Euronext, a source familiar with the situation said. Nasdaq would finance the transaction with up to $5 billion in debt and would most likely have to sell Euronext’s Liffe derivatives business to IntercontinentalExchange Inc to raise the needed capital.

If successful, such a counter-offer would redraw the global exchange map and thwart yet another merger plan by Germany’s Deutsche Boerse.

Even though the Nasdaq group has several options to go forward with a bid for NYSE,  Michael J. De La Merced of The New York Times thinks Nasdaq will find itself hard pressed to stay alone as its competitors bulk up through a series of mergers.

Deals wrap: Buffett pulls the trigger

Warren E. Buffett, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway, testifies before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission during a public hearing in New York in this June 2, 2010 file photo. Reuters/Shannon StapletonWarren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway struck a deal to buy lubricants maker Lubrizol for $9 billion in cash to tap rising demand for chemicals used to operate engines and machinery. Shira Ovide of the Wall Street Journal takes a spin through Lubrizol’s fundamentals and businesses.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is shopping around its 66 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

Venture capital investment in U.S. clean technology companies rose 46 percent to $5.1 billion last year after a big decline in 2009, according to a report by research firm Clean Edge.

Deals wrap: Another potash miner in play?

The $1.2 billion sale by Swiss German chemical company BASF of its stake in K+S could trigger a battle amongst global mining giants for the German potash miner.

BASF sold its roughly 10 percent stake in the company as part of a shift away from the nitrogen fertilizer business in the face of competition from lower-cost producers in the Middle East. If Russian fertilizer company EuroChem sells its own K+S stake of 14% it could push the German miner into play, with majors such as BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto amongst the potential buyers.

The lagging economic recovery has made discount stores an attractive destination for pinched consumers and big investors alike. The Schiffer-Gold family, which currently owns 33% of 99 Cents Only Storesis teaming up with buyout firm Leonard Green and Partners in a $1.34 billion bid to take the retailer private.

Deals wrap: An all-Japan exchange?

A man walks past a glass wall with logos of the Tokyo Stock Exchange at the bourse in Tokyo November 4, 2010. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao Call it the survival instinct. The flurry of mergers and alliances underway in the global exchanges industry has served as a call to action for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which may begin merger talks with its main Japanese rival Osaka Securities Exchange as it seeks out ways to survive consolidation sweeping the sector.

Meanwhile, some of Canada’s big banks are protesting the London Stock Exchange’s proposed $3.2 billion takeover of Toronto Stock Exchange parent, TMX Group. Bank executives told a hearing that the deal threatens Toronto’s status as a global financial hub and could harm the prospects of Canadian companies looking to raise funds on public markets.

HCA, the biggest U.S. for-profit hospital chain, made history on Wednesday when it pulled off the largest private-equity backed initial public offering ever. Investors snapped up more shares than expected in the $3.79 billion IPO, shrugging off the hospital operator’s high debt levels as the market for newly traded shares heats up. Check out our list of the ten largest U.S. private equity-backed IPOs.