DealZone

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.

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In other media:

Newmont Mining Corp, the world’s second-largest gold producer, is holding preliminary talks with advisers to takeover target Australia’s Lihir Gold, The Australian Financial Review reported.

State-owned German transport group Deutsche Bahn is poised to make a 1.6 billion pound ($2.6 billion) bid for British train and bus operator Arriva, according to the Times.

Noted: Will European insurers hit M&A trail?

Analysts at UBS are predicting the European insurance industry could be at the start of a new wave of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as companies look to counter falling demand for insurance by taking over rivals to boost top-line growth and extract cost synergies.  Bank rescues have created a number of potential targets as well.

The team, led by Marc Thiele, says:

“We believe European large-cap insurers will look for M&A in Eastern Europe and Asia…In our opinion, this would be more attractive than acquiring cash-generative businesses in mature countries; while this tends to offer greater cost-savings potential, it also offers less premium growth.

“On top of the normal M&A considerations, there are a number of additional game-changing transactions possible following the decisions involving ING and RBS to exit the insurance business in agreement with the European Commission.

Own goal?

Standard Chartered bucks the trend of banks making a dash from sports sponsorship deals and will pay $130 million to put its name on Liverpool Football Club’s shirts for four years from next summer. It is one of the most lucrative deals in soccer history.But AIG, Citi, RBS and Northern Rock offer a stark reminder that big sports deals can be high-profile signals of waste. AIG sponsored Manchester United and RBS and ING pumped millions into Formula One, and Northern Rock was better known to millions as the sponsor of Newcastle F.C. than as a mortgage bank — until its collapse.Citi raised anger after sticking with a controversial $400 million deal with baseball team the New York Mets. All those banks needed taxpayer rescue funds.Critics say big sports deals can reflect poor corporate governance and misguided priorities. Advisory firm Advisor Perspectives this year said a study of 69 U.S. sports “naming rights” deals showed the performance of the companies buying the rights trailed the S&P 500 index by almost 5 percent over the course of the deal.But it could be a good fit for StanChart, which gets 80 percent of its profits in Asia. Liverpool is a big, iconic name in Asia and English Premier League games are screened into millions of homes each week. The prize for the bank is not the domestic or European fields where Liverpool has enjoyed regular success, but the potential customers in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and across the region.At least there can be few complaints the bank’s board is following its heart. Former chairman and CEO Mervyn Davies was a staunch Spurs supporter, current CEO Peter Sands is an avid Arsenal fan and Finance Director Richard Meddings may have struggled to find a global reach with a deal with his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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.