DealZone

Chinese Wells

Having the engine of cheap exports able to secure oil and other resources can’t be bad for firing up global economic recovery. So Sinopec‘s purchase of Swiss oil explorer Addax Petroleum — China’s biggest overseas acquisition — should be an encouraging event.

Addax brings high-potential oil blocks in West Africa and Iraq. These are areas that tend to present difficulties for Western oil companies, so the deal exposes gaps that big emerging powers such as China, India and South Korea are looking to exploit. Certainly, these corners of the world are less politically perilous for the People’s Republic than the United States, where local politicians blocked CNOOC’s $18.5 billion bid for oil company Unocal in 2005.

Is it too convoluted to suggest that the bad blood still dripping from the failed Unocal bid might wind up being the grease that gets a world of other deals done for China?

Iron ore: Australians 1 Chinese 0

(From Acquisitions Monthly)

Rio Tinto’s agreement to scrap its refinancing deal with Chinese shareholder Chinalco, join its iron interests in Australia with arch rival BHP Billiton and raise $15 billion from investors is a remarkable coup, solving many of the miner’s problems.

Most importantly it allows the company to halve its $40 billion debts, which doubled to that level when chief executive Tom Albanese bought Canadian aluminum company Alcan for cash at the top of the commodity cycle in mid-2007.

After the cycle turned, and prices fell, exacerbated by the global economic downturn, Rio and Albanese’s position looked vulnerable. BHP had earlier tried to exploit this, proposing a mega 3.4-for-1 all share offer.

Goldman sells China

Goldman Sachs, putting together the pieces of its TARP repayment, is taking a page from Bank of America’s book and selling off at least some of its China exposure. The stake of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is being sold at a discount and should raise $1.9 billion – or about a fifth of what it owes in TARP.

Goldman, along with Morgan Stanley and others applied last week to repay the government. This may have more to do with Chinese bank assets being big and, presumably, more liquid than others Goldman has in its vast pool of assets. A more alarming analysis could be that asset quality at Chinese banks is as bad as it ever was.

Interesting that news of the sale should come from a bank that launched so many careers at the U.S. Treasury just as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner touches down in China.

Coke, eBay activity in Asia

CHINA-ECONOMY/PROPERTYIs it a sign of recovery that cross-Pacific deals are making a comeback? Certainly the mighty dollar makes overseas assets cheap, and foreign governments are probably more willing to create less friction on inflows with investment markets quiet.

In a deal that only a month ago was dead in the water, with a big protectionist steak through the heart, Coca-Cola’s bid to get into the Chinese market appears to be coming back to life. The company is now reported to be holding informal talks with China Huiyuan Juice to weigh partnership options after the $2.4 billion deal — the largest-ever buyout of a Chinese company by a foreign rival – was scuppered.

In South Korea, antitrust officials have cleared the way for eBay to buy Gmarket, its key competitor in the country. The deal, worth up to $1.2 billion, is seen a key driver of growth in the region for eBay. Nasdaq-listed Gmarket is the biggest South Korean operator of customer-to-customer marketplaces and has more than 10 million registered users in the country. When combined, Gmarket and eBay’s South Korean unit will have an 87.5 percent share of the South Korean customer-to-customer market and 36.4 percent of the entire domestic online shopping market.

Another deal in healthcare: what’s the magic pill?

pillsAs dealmakers everywhere struggle to get deals done, the healthcare industry seals yet another one.

Express Scripts has agreed to buy health insurer WellPoint’s prescription business for $4.68 billion in a significant expansion for the U.S. pharmacy beenfit manager. The deal will be a concoction of cash and up to $1.4 billion in common stock, and will generate more than $1 billion of incremental EBITDA.

This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s $41.1 billion takeover of Schering Plough and Roche Holding’s $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech. Granted, this isn’t a pharma deal, but it still falls under the umbrella of the healthcare sector.

Goldman: short East, long West?

FINANCIAL/GOLDMANSACHSFew can claim to have ever gotten very rich betting against Goldman Sachs. The bank is reported to be cutting its stake in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and perhaps buying into exchange-traded funds provider iShares.

The Wall Street Journal reports Goldman and ICBC have been talking. Goldman’s 4.9 percent stake in ICBC is worth about $8.5 billion. The timing of a sale seems right, as a lock-up period tying Goldman’s hands ends late next month. The Journal reported Goldman could raise more than $1 billion by selling 15-20 percent of its holding.

Over the last few months, others have also beaten a retreat from China and other points East as risk aversion has grown to dizzying heights. But other financial heavyweights, notably Citigroup, had to repair tattered balance sheets, while Goldman appears to be acting from a position of relative strength. The New York Times reports Goldman plans to pay back the $10 billion it borrowed from U.S. taxpayers last fall — perhaps within the next month.