M & A wrap: Saudi prince buys Twitter stake

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world’s top companies, has bought a stake in Twitter for $300 million, gaining another foothold in the global media industry. Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s king estimated by Forbes magazine in March to have a fortune of $19.6 billion, already owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel. The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, resulted from “months of negotiations,” Kingdom said.

Explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum is not in talks with U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp about a 7 billion pounds ($10.9 billion) bid, a source familiar with the Kurdistan-focused group’s thinking said on Monday. The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that Exxon was considering making an estimated 800 pence per share bid – five times Gulf Keystone’s closing share price on Friday. The report, which drove Gulf Keystone’s shares up as much as 24 percent on Monday, said the company’s board had discussed Exxon’s interest a fortnight ago. But a source familiar with Gulf Keystone’s thinking said there were no talks with Exxon.

European Goldfields, which has agreed to a C$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) takeover by Canadian group Eldorado Gold, is hoping to keep an investment deal with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund as a fall back option. Qatar Holdings agreed in October to provide a $600 million project financing loan to European Goldfields, which has development stage assets in Greece and Romania, in its first investment in a gold miner. It also provided a $150 million loan note and a related warrant issue, and became a major shareholder, with a 9.9 percent stake. Eldorado’s strong balance sheet means European Goldfields is unlikely to need the cash from Qatar if the takeover goes through — but it does need two-thirds of shareholders to back the deal when they vote in February.

Etihad Airways is taking a stake of almost 30 percent in Germany’s Air Berlin, becoming the first Gulf carrier to challenge European legacy airlines by putting cash on the table to gain scale. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad will spend about 73 million euros ($95 million) to buy new shares of Air Berlin, raising its stake to 29.21 percent from just below 3 percent, and will lend the German carrier $255 million, the two companies said on Monday.

Deals wrap: Splitting Kraft

Kraft said it would split itself into two listed companies, a global snacks business and a North American grocery business, and raised its full-year outlook on better-than-expected quarterly results.

Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have begun talks on what would be Japan’s biggest domestic merger, three sources said, heralding a long awaited shake-up of the nation’s industrial behemoths.  Japan Real Time reports on the clumsy merger kabuki which followed a leak to local media.

When Goldman Sachs executed a $479 million block share sale in ICBC this week to help American Express  hedge its position in the Chinese lender, it underscored the sensitivities and challenges of dealmaking in China.

Deals wrap: A Blockbuster deal for Dish?

A Blockbuster movie rental store is seen in Golden, Colorado September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Rick WilkingActivist investor Carl Icahn may have shown up in person at Blockbuster’s bankruptcy auction to place his bid, but it was U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network that walked away the winner.

Dish, led by satellite billionaire Charlie Ergen, won the assets of the once-mighty video rental chain for about $320 million, beating out Icahn and at least two other bidders in an auction that lasted into the early morning hours on Wednesday.

NYSE Euronext will “absolutely not” be placing a counterbid for Nasdaq OMX, a source close to the Big Board told Reuters corresondent Paritosh Bansal in an exclusive interview. The source said such a combination would be strategically unattractive and face “insurmountable antitrust problems.”

Deals wrap: Icahn turns inward

Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007.  REUTERS/Chip East Seems billionaire investor Carl Icahn has had enough of managing money for outsiders. The 75-year-old stock picker dropped a bit of surprising news on Tuesday when he said he plans on returning all of his clients’ money, making him the latest in a string of investors to do so.

Barnes & Noble’s bid to reinvent itself as a formidable competitor in the burgeoning e-books sector is off to a solid start. Its Nook is the second best-selling e-reader on the market behind Amazon’s Kindle, and the book chain’s chief says it has 25 percent of the e-books market.  So why can’t the bookseller find any buyers? Reuters correspondents Phil Wahba and Jessica Hall take a closer look in a new piece.

Jury selection in the trial against Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam kicks off the action today in a case at the heart of the biggest insider trading investigation in a generation.

Deals wrap: Looking forward to 2011′s IPOs?

A Wall St. sign is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange September 30, 2008.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson Nielsen’s IPO raised more than expected and could set the tone for a rush of big private equity-backed IPOs anticipated in 2011.

Rupert Murdoch has opted to travel to London instead of Davos as News Corp’s $12.5 billion bid for British satellite broadcaster BSkyB hangs in the balance, two sources familiar with his plans said.

Icahn Enterprises extended its tender offer to buy Dynegy, a day after the power producer said it did not receive any competing bids to top Carl Icahn’s $665 million takeover offer.

Deals wrap: Brokers sharpen elbows

A traffic light is pictured beside the Wall Street road sign in the financial district of New York September 19, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson Corporate broking relationships are experiencing a shake-up this year as relative newcomers and smaller advisors look to grow by charming disillusioned clients from rivals.

Two fledgling European clearing houses, EMCF and EuroCCP, are in merger talks as they face the prospect of increasing competition from larger rivals, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter said.

India’s Hero Group will buy Honda Motor’s entire 26 percent stake in their Honda motorcycle venture Hero Honda Motors, paving the way for the Japanese firm to focus on its wholly-owned Indian unit.

Deals wrap: Novartis sweetens the deal

A general view shows the production plant of the pharmaceutical company Novartis in Schweizerhalle near Basel July 21, 2008. Picture taken July 21, 2008.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann Novartis has wrapped up its long-awaited buyout of the remainder of U.S.-listed Alcon for $12.9 billion, after sweetening its original offer with cash.

Power producer Dynegy agreed to be bought by Icahn Enterprises, a firm controlled by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, for $665 million in cash. The deal comes after Dynegy rejected Blackstone Group’s $602 million bid in November.

General Electric Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt’s problems have changed an awful lot in the past two years. Worry about a hidden time bomb in its financial arm has been replaced with concerns the company has built up too much cash.

Storming the Lions Gate

Playing the part of offended belle, Lions Gate Entertainment today asked its shareholders to reject the $7-a-share tender offer from Carl Icahn that would give him control of the Hollywood studio. It’s a much-dog-eared script in the world of M&A, and aside from an assured Hollywood ending, this one still has some drama to go.

What would Icahn do if he completed his offer and purchased all stocks tendered as of June 16th? “I will then conduct a proxy fight to seek to replace the board at the annual meeting,” Icahn said in a statement.

It’s been a months-long hostile saga and Lions Gates views Icahn’s offer as “financially inadequate, coercive and opportunistic.”

Win-win for Carl Icahn

As Wednesdays go, this must be one of the best in a while for activist investor Carl Icahn. He’s getting two board posts at Genzyme, for which he is dropping his proxy battle, and he has charmed the Canadians into approving his tender offer for Lions Gate Entertainment, for which all he had to do was promise to keep the Canadian film division in Canadian hands if he takes control of the Los Angeles studio.

All this is a welcome turn of events for the high profile investor who has suffered through his share of misses in recent years, including his disappointing investments in Blockbuster and, most famously, Yahoo.

Icahn had nominated himself and three allies to Genzyme’s board after a manufacturing crisis lead to shortages of two of the company’s life-saving drugs. Genzyme has agreed to appoint two Icahn representatives — Dr. Steven Burakoff and Dr. Eric Ende — and in return Icahn will withdraw his slate and vote his shares in favor of the company’s nominees. “I think overall this is a positive,” said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management, which owns Genzyme’s shares and oversees nearly $4 billion in assets. “It avoids a continuing confrontation with Icahn and provides more oversight over the direction the company takes.”

Blockbusted – Icahn cuts stake in troubled video chain

Blockbuster‘s biggest shareholder, and one of the market’s most prominent activist investors, is heading for the door, heaping another note of gloom to the video chain’s hopes to avoid bankruptcy.

Filings show Billionaire investor Carl Icahn cut his stake in Blockbuster by selling more than 13 million shares. Over the past week he trimmed his ownership of the Class A shares to 5.1 percent as of March 29, according to a federal filing. In January he reported a 16.9 percent stake. He also reduced his stake in the company’s Class B shares.

To be fair, Blockbuster is already positioning itself for a trip to Bankruptcyland, having said earlier this month that it might need to file for protection from creditors.