Deals du jour

A man rides past a newsstand with French daily newspapers in Nice, southeastern France, February 24, 2009.

AIG plans to float its Asian crown jewel, Volkswagen halts talks with Porsche, Nomura hires for a massive push in U.S. equities, and more. Here are the latest deal-related stories:

AIG to launch IPO for Asia crown jewel

Volkswagen halts tie-up talks with Porsche

Nomura hires for massive U.S. equity push

Cubs’ offer won’t be voted on next week: sources

Babcock & Brown infrastructure fund gets acquired

China pension fund plans foreign PE deals: sources

China government OKs Minmetals’ OZ Minerals deal

Daiwa SMBC to buy unit of Britain’s Close Brothers

Whitehaven says to drop merger deal with Gloucester

Metro to present Karstadt deal outline: sources

And in Europe’s morning papers:

* Hedge fund manager Noam Gottesman, co-chief executive of GLG Partners Inc (GLG.N), plans to move to New York from London to build up the fund’s U.S. assets, the Daily Telegraph said.

* Alan Miller, former fund manager at New Star, plans to launch two new funds in a joint venture with Alexander Spencer Churchill, the Daily Telegraph said.

* Britain’s Financial Services Authority is investigating potential insider dealing in shares of pub companies Punch Taverns (PUB.L) and Enterprise Inns (ETI.L), the Daily Telegraph reported. Reuters story here.

* Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) CEO Frederic Oudea has said that further writedowns are possible at the bank, depending on market conditions, Le Parisien newspaper reported. Reuters story here.

Timing is everything, private equity finds

With the market talking of green shoots, it seems only a matter of time before the predators of the private equity world begin stalking the market again. Simon Meads and I took a look at the issue earlier today.

We found that though many private equity houses are still licking the wounds inflicted by ill-judged boom year deals, others remain keen and ready to go. Many of these firms timed it just right, either raising funds late in the credit cycle or selling companies at the top of the market.

Private equity companies in a good position include Advent International, Bridgepoint, CVC, Charterhouse, Cinven, PAI and Warburg Pincus.

Dow Chemical: Official Rainmakers’ Punching Bag

Poor Dow Chemical.

Not only did the company end up having to buy Rohm and Haas at basically the same steep price it agreed to last year, but it has also become the favorite target of lawyers, bankers and maybe even judges at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute, an annual gathering of top dealmakers.

Timothy Ingrassia, head of Goldman Sachs mergers and acquisitions business in the Americas struck the first blow on Thursday morning.

 ”You’ve already had Dow Chemical’s unique interpretation of the merger agreement. There was never a transaction that made Apollo look better,” Ingrassia said, referring to private equity firm Apollo’s previous efforts to get out of an agreement to buy Huntsman Corp. 

(Be)league(red) tables

Preliminary first-quarter data from Thomson Reuters on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and capital markets are out. And unsurprisingly, spring has not sprung in investment banking, with the big exception of a record deluge of corporate bonds.

Fees across investment banking (M&A, loans, and debt and equity capital markets) halved, while fees for completed M&A topped that with a 68 percent fall. Overall announced M&A fell by a third, compared to the same period last year, to $444 billion.

And even that figure is flattered by two huge pharma deals, which bankers doubt will be followed by more of the same, and a flurry of bank bailouts.

The dealscape according to Stone Key Partners

dsc00328Two Wall Street veterans, former Bear Stearns investment bankers Denis Bovin and Michael Urfirer, officially launched Stone Key Partners today. The boutique investment banking firm, which has been operating under the radar for nearly a year, will focus on strategic advisory services, including M&A advice.

Stone Key, which has about a dozen people in all right now, plans to focus on technology, aerospace, defense, homeland security and information services. The firm made it to Thomson Reuters’ annual rankings for 2008 for advising on about $5.5 billion in M&A transactions. Bovin and Urfirer, who have worked together since 1994, have been involved in big deals such as Finmeccanica’s $5.2 billion acquisition of DRS Technologies, among others.

Bovin, 61, and Urfirer, 49, are co-chairmen and co-CEOs of Stone Key. Dealzone caught up with the two of them for a Q&A:

Little orphan brandie

FOOD-SUMMIT/B&GB&G Foods Inc wants the small, orphan brands that no one else loves. 

“We have a laundry list and any number companies that we talk to on a regular basis,” said B&G Chief Executive David Wenner. “We’re buying all these things people don’t want to run.”

B&G pointed to the success of its acquisition of Cream of Wheat, saying “no one was paying any attention to it. So that’s where we come in.”

“We’re looking for things are aren’t commodities. Higher margin products, ethnic foods are great. Las Palmas and Ortega — they’ve grown steadily over the years and we love that,” Wenner said.

Roche basks in Genentech defence

roche-hqIt wasn’t quite the market response Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson was looking for.

Levinson and his team worked hard to make the bull case for the biotech group by providing long-term forecasts to prove it is worth far more than Roche is willing to pay. Yet Genentech shares still ended down 4.6 percent, or nearly $4, in line with a grim market on March 2.

Roche investors, by contrast, were in distinctly chipper mood on March 3, marking up the Swiss group’s stock by more than 5 percent. 

In a spin

Financial public relations firms, who elevated the honing of corporate messages to a highly profitable art form, are having to adapt their businesses and in some cases cut staff as the economic gloom intensifies.

With far fewer deals to publicize and lucrative “retainer” contracts under pressure, companies are cutting costs and are increasingly focusing on work thrown up by the crisis, such as capital-raising, restructuring and repairing tarnished images.”

So what exactly are they up to?

Some recent pr industry blogs and other web postings shine a light on some of the spinmeisters’ latest tactics.

Hard ball from Basel

schwanExpect a bruising fight.

In the battle for control of the world’s most valuable biotech company, Roche CEO Severin Schwan is playing hard ball. The reason is simple: he needs to clinch a deal that clearly enhances earnings.

The Swiss drugmaker has been the most highly rated Big Pharma company for years but financial results last week suggest it may be losing its mojo. Certainly, its premium rating is slipping.

Genentech had wanted $112 a share but Roche’s tender offer for the 44 percent of Genentech it doesn’t already own actually cuts the price to $86.50, or about $42 billion, from the $89 proposed last July.