DealZone

DealZone Daily

Pfizer will present a nearly $4 billion offer for Germany’s Ratiopharm this week, sources tell Reuters, launching a possible bidding war with Teva Pharmaceutical and Actavis. A decision is unlikely before the end of the month.

Hedge fund Elliot Associates offers to buy Novell Inc — the world’s No. 2 maker of Linux — sending its shares up 28 percent. Speculation is that other bidders could come in and drive the price up further.

Britain’s Prudential seems to have stopped its decline after it announced a $35.5 billion takeover of AIA — the Asian life insurance business of AIG. The stock dropped a fifth since the Pru announced its offer, but it’s now bounced a percent or so.

For these deals stories — and all others — click here.

Plus, in other media:

Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi is in talks with France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen about extending an alliance but a capital tie-up is not on the agenda,  La Tribune newspaper says.

from Environment Forum:

GM, Chrysler cleared executive decks in 2009

When 2009 began, both General Motors and Chrysler were sliding toward bankruptcy. As the year ends, both companies have survived to fight another day.

The same can't be said for their senior executives.

Of the top 10 executives at GM's glass-towered Detroit headquarters in January, only one -- Bob Lutz -- remains.  At Chrysler, only two of the 10 highest-ranking executives are still in Auburn Hills.  

At GM, the churn took a dramatic toll at the vice president level. Of the 55 top executives, including vice presidents and divisional leaders, who were at GM at the start of the year, 26 have left the automaker.  Of the remainder, few remain in the same positions they held, according to a Reuters tally.

Deals du Jour

French food group Danone has agreed to sell its 51 percent stake in its joint ventures with China’s Wahaha group, putting an end to legal proceedings related to the disputes between the two. In 2007, Danone accused Wahaha of illegally setting up parallel business outside their ventures. 

McGraw-Hill Cos is leaning toward selling its money-losing BusinessWeek magazine to Bloomberg LP, a person familiar with the matter tells Reuters. Bloomberg Markets, a financial news magazine that produces feature stories, and the 80-year-old BusinessWeek could be blended to make a title that would expand Bloomberg’s presence beyond its financial data clients and reach a mainstream audience.

For more on these stories and the rest of the latest deals news from Reuters, click here .

Deals du Jour

Ford Motor Co has slowed the sale of its Volvo car unit as it plans to open up the auction to losing bidders for General Motors’ Opel, the Wall Street Journal cited a person close to the company as saying.

In other M&A related stories reported by Reuters and other media on Friday:

Russian mobile network Mobile TeleSystems (MBT.N) is set to pay $1.28 billion, or $5.98 per share, for a 51 percent stake in fixed line carrier Comstar (CMSTq.L), newspaper Kommersant reported.

Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines is preparing a bid to acquire bankrupt Frontier Airlines for a minimum of $113.6 million, exceeding the $108.8 million bid from Republic Airways Holdings. For the Reuters story, click here.

Chrysler, an American Bankruptcy

CHRYSLER/DEALERSChrysler’s private equity owners Cerberus, or at least their lawyers, will arrive at bankruptcy court in Manhattan later this morning. Yesterday, President Obama assured hand-wringing industrialists that the process would be quick and efficient and that Chrysler would emerge a leaner, meaner machine.

To some degree, one can look at the U.S. airline industry in the same light. But that industry, while “saved” through bankruptcy numerous times, is today a shadow of its former self, and remains haunted every so often by the threat of a return to that business mortuary for rebirth.

But a lot has changed since the crisis mad bankruptcy court so busy. The key for the new age of court-run restructuring is to sell major assets before going to court — effectively leaving creditors to haggle over the dregs. Some disgruntled creditors contend that the quick bankruptcy promised by Obama is being engineered in such a way because the sales would never make it past a judge.

Unions deal as Chrysler deadline looms

CHRYSLER/FIATWith just days left to complete deals to slash labor and debt costs or face bankruptcy, Chrysler has won union concessions aimed at paving the way for a deal with Fiat and the U.S. government to save the privately held automaker. The UAW said that deal must be ratified by Wednesday and meets conditions mandated by the Treasury as part of an emergency loan program for Chrysler. Treasury’s deadline is Thursday.

“The patience, resolve and determination of UAW members in these difficult times is extraordinary, and has made it possible for us to reach the agreement we will present to our membership,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement. The UAW represents about 26,800 Chrysler workers in the United States. The company also has a contract buyout offer on the table for those workers, which expires today. GM is expected to announce a fresh round of cost cutting later this morning.

The U.S. Treasury was expected to make a new debt restructuring offer to Chrysler’s lenders, who are owed $6.9 billion, as soon as today. Attention has shifted back to creditors. Whether they will show patience, resolve and determination remains a question.  Whether doing so will produce a deal is an even bigger one.

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello

FRANCEIt may be a raucous bit of speculation gone awry, but reports in Italy that Fiat is angling to pick up General Motors’ Opel operations in Europe if the Chrysler deal falls through are too good to dismiss out of hand.

The denial from Fiat’s Chairman, Luca Cordero de Montezemolo, left a little room for intrigue in its dramatic flair. “They’ve written about it in the newspapers? No, no,” he told reporters. Fiat shares raced higher in relief. “Opel is linked to GM and Fiat has already got out of that,” said a Milan dealer, referring to a previous partnership. “Plus, it (Opel) is a clunker. Heaven forbid!”

Meanwhile, over at Chrysler, Chief Executive Bob Nardelli has been telling it like it will be. In an internal memo to staff, he said the company would cede control of its board, and ultimately senior leadership, if it completes the planned Fiat alliance. Given the Fiat deal is for only a fifth of Chrysler initially, rising eventually to 35 percent, that might seem odd. Then again, it’s the U.S. auto sector we’re talking about.

Bankruptcy or Bust

an_american_revolution_bannerAlmost on cue, with an end-March restructuring plan deadline looming, reports of General Motors’ impending demise are bubbling up from the slush of a winter’s economic meltdown. The Wall Street Journal reports GM is looking to take back big chunks of bankrupt parts supplier Delphi, which it spun off a decade ago. The move would make GM bigger just when it is busy right-sizing. Is it taking aim at gaining that exalted Too Big To Fail status that has saved so many banks?

Meanwhile, Bloomberg has an analytical piece suggesting the U.S. government will insist on bankruptcy at GM and Chrysler, engineered to put taxpayer money above other claims. Whatever the case, it is clear the fate of the automakers is again the subject of much debate in the Oval Office. Turnaround plans from GM and privately held Chrysler are expected before the end of the month, and the White House says no decisions are expected before then.

The Obama administration confirmed our reporting that it had hired two law firms to assist Treasury Department officials on auto restructuring matters, lending some credibility to the bankruptcy argument. Lawyers tend to hover and hop around with vulture-like efficiency when talk of bankruptcy funding gathers momentum.

Santa for automakers, Grinch for taxpayers?

grinchA company in the U.S. auto industry fails — and the government steps in as savior. Yet again. That’s right. Santa visits the automakers this year while the Grinch steals taxpayers’ Christmas.

The Bush administration is buying $5 billion in equity in GMAC – the finance arm owned by GM and Cerberus Capital Management. The Treasury has also offered a new $1 billion loan to GM so the automaker could participate in a rights offering at GMAC.

Yes, this in addition to the recent $17.4 billion emergency loan to save GM and Chrysler from bankruptcy.  In fact, the government already helped GMAC last week, when the Federal Reserve approved the finance company’s application to become a bank-holding company.

Senator, can you spare a dime?

The Detroit Three automakers go to Washington today, armed with fresh restructuring plans they hope will convince federal lawmakers to open the bailout spigot. For General Motors, Ford and Chrysler the stakes couldn’t be higher.

GM has been reviewing its already revamped business plan and may take steps that include dropping or selling off the Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands. Ford, seen as the strongest bet to survive of the three because of its better cash position, is considering the sale of Volvo. And Chrysler, seen as the most vulnerable of the bunch, finds itself having to spell out the reasons it needs federal funds even though it’s also looking to hook up with foreign automakers.

As IHS Global Insight analyst Aaron Bragman says: “Just as General Motors is too big to fail, Chrysler is too small to survive on its own.”