DealZone

Deals wrap: Floating AIA

An office worker leaves the AIA tower in Hong Kong July 13, 2010.   REUTERS/Tyrone Siu An initial public offering of AIA is likely, sources say. AIA, seen as AIG’s Asian crown jewel, is a key cog in the bailed-out insurer’s plans to repay U.S. taxpayers, who now own nearly 80 percent of the company. View article

The Wall Street reform bill appeared to gain the support it needed for final congressional approval as three key Republicans said they would support the measure. Analysts — and opponents of the bill — expect the bill to ultimately reach President Barack Obama’s desk for approval. View article

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says if the authority given in the Wall Street reform bill currently before Congress was available during his tenure, the impact of the financial crisis would have been significantly reduced. View NYT article

Citi’s risky businesses

Assume for a moment that Citi is successful in raising $3 billion for private equity and hedge funds, and assume for another moment that the U.S. government takes away these businesses away from Citi, as legislators are threatening. What happens next? Why is Citi building a business it may soon have to sell? And why would any investor give money to a hedge fund manager that may have to sell its business?

Investors will not likely care about whether the bank will sell its alternative asset management business. Customers care most about who is investing their money day to day, not which corporate logo is on the stationery. And if Citi has to sell the business, it will get a slightly higher price for a business that has an extra $3 billion under management.

Citi is still walking into a mine field by building a business that lawmakers are explicitly trying to keep banks out of. One thing for sure–if Citigroup is building alternative asset management businesses, nobody can accuse it of being under the thumb of the government, which still owns billions of the bank’s shares.

Clock ticks as AIG ponders AIA’s prospects

American International Group CEO Robert Benmosche asked the insurer’s board for time to explore options besides a public offering for its Asian life unit after a $35.5 billion deal to sell it to Prudential fell apart, a source familiar with the matter tells Paritosh Bansal.

Benmosche wanted to explore other options for American International Assurance, including selling parts of the business, after the directors on Monday voted down a sale to Prudential on revised terms, the source said. The British insurer had asked AIG to cut the price to $30.4 billion.

Putting aside for the moment what AIA may actually be worth, AIG’s board and even Uncle Sam can possibly be forgiven for not wanting to appear too desperate to sell. They certainly would have had a harder time setting prices for other assets if Pru was able to knock a sixth off the price just for asking.

AIG won’t haggle?!

With an outstanding IOU to Uncle Sam of more than $50 billion, AIG hardly seems to be in a position to turn up its nose at a lower bid for AIA from Britain’s Prudential. The message was pretty clear to Pru’s CEO Tidjane Thiam that his shareholders were in little mood to approve a $21 billion rights issue to fund a $35 billion purchase of AIG’s Asian assets. So he came back with a $30 billion offer. No surprises there. He’d be mad not to haggle, particularly given it looks like Pru is the only buyer out there.

Suggestions that AIG would opt for an IPO of the Asian business shouldn’t have been much of a threat to Pru’s bid. Expectations were that AIG would get around half what Pru was offering – after haggling – if it went to market, and that assumed a market with a whole lot more appetite for new issues than the one AIG is now looking at.

So what gives? Does AIG have some mystery buyer waiting in the wings willing to hit its magic price tag? Or has AIG CEO Robert Benmosche been given some secret blessing by the U.S. Treasury to slow down the asset sales and try to rebuild the business? That’s almost harder to believe than the white knight suggestion. This is an election year, and politicians will smell blood if it starts to look like AIG is dragging its heels in paying its bills.

Pru gets an earful over AIA deal

RiskMetrics has weighed in against Pru buying AIG’s AIA Asian assets, saying $35.5 billion is too much. The risk advisory firm joins a chorus of analysts chirping away from Singapore to London about problems with a deal that would pay off a huge chunk of AIG’s debt to Uncle Sam while transforming Pru into an Asian powerhouse.

Prudential holds a shareholders vote on June 7 to clear a $21 billion rights offer to fund the acquisition. One big issue is the price tag, which has drawn scrutiny given the fact that AIG has limited leverage to demand a big premium since it is selling the assets under duress. Pru’s ability to hit its projected revenue “synergies” from the deal are a big concern too.

CLSA Asia Pacific Markets, a broker not involved with deal, said in a report last week that a plan keeping both AIA and Pru brands intact and competing with each other will negate such gains. “It is already a challenge to retain agents, let alone target a dramatic increase in sales,” CLSA said.

Pru looks to appease shareholders

IAAPrudential’s strategy to appease shareholders: It will spit out what it can’t chew as it swallows a business bigger than itself.

The UK’s largest insurer is expected to outline divestments of some Asian assets in its upcoming rights offering prospectus to allay concerns about its planned $35.5 billion acquisition of AIA, AIG’s Asian life insurance unit.

Shareholders have become fretful about Prudential’s ability to pull off the mega transaction. It hit a regulatory snag last week and delayed the release of the prospectus for the $21 billion rights issue to part fund the deal.

DealZone Daily

British insurer Prudential is to list in Hong Kong on May 11 and announced a secondary listing in Singapore to fund its $35.5 billion takeover of rival AIA, AIG’s Asian life insurance business.  Prudential said it would publish prospectuses for each of the listings on May 5.

U.S. air carriers United Airlines and Continental are considering a nil premium all stock merger to create the world’s largest airline valued at about $6.6 billion.  US Airways earlier dropped out of merger discussions with United. Many believed United had only entered talks with US Airways to draw out Continental, arguably a better match for it.

CenturyTel is to buy Qwest Communications in another stock deal, valuing the combination of the U.S.’s third and fourth largest landline telephone companies at $10.6 billion. The deal is designed to let the new business, CenturyLink, cut costs and compete more effectively, as consumers increasingly unplug their phone lines and go mobile.

DealZone Daily

Australia’s competition watchdog blocked National Australia Bank’s $13 billion agreed deal for wealth manager Axa Asia Pacific Holdings, opening the door for rival bidder AMP to make a comeback. Australia’s competition regulator defied expectations it would give conditional approval for a deal, instead issuing a flat rejection on the grounds a tie-up would hurt competition for retail investors.

British train and bus operator Arriva said it is in advanced talks with Deutsche Bahn about the German state rail company’s 775 pence a share bid, valuing the company at 2.7 billion euros including debt.

European consumer goods group Unilever will kick off the sale of its frozen food arm Findus next week, expecting to draw bids from private equity groups including Permira, Lion Capital and BC Partners.

DealZone Daily

United Airlines has restarted merger talks with Continental Airlines as it eyes the top spot as the world’s largest air carrier. The two laid much of the ground work for a deal in 2008 but decided to puruse an alliance instead. A deal could leave US Air jilted despite four months of negotiations with United but, in a further twist to the aerial saga, United has also raised the topic of a deeper three-way cooperation between the airlines.

Top Macarthur Coal shareholder CITIC Resources said it has not yet decided whether to support a A$16 a share offer from Peabody Energy valuing the Australian miner at $3.8 billion. The 22.4 percent stakeholder said it needs more information to make a final decision on the Peabody bid.

Prudential’s Asia CEO said the British insurer is under no pressure from its shareholders to cut the $35.5 billion purchase price for AIG’s Asian life insurance unit.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their "Sweet 16" picks in Consumerist.com's annual "Worst Company in America"  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 "teams," the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the "winner" (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an "upset" Cash4Gold beat defending "champion" AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.