DealZone

Deals wrap: Aussie coal is hot

A coal excavator loading coal at one of Macarthur Coal's mines  in Queensland is seen in this undated photograph obtained April 9, 2010. REUTERS/Macarthur Coal/HandoutAround $7 billion of Australia’s coal assets are in the crosshairs of predators from Seoul to Shanghai, as Asia jostles for supplies to feed its burgeoning needs, pushing up bid valuations for Australian coal miners. *View article *View factbox

Barnes & Noble’s predicament is sounding like Blockbuster’s — meaning, unfortunately, the fading video rental chain not a successful movie. The U.S. bookseller’s cash flow is sinking and technological shifts look set to worsen that. What exactly the bookseller can do is unclear. *View column

Bernard Madoff had the big numbers attached to his crime but Kenneth Starr’s alleged Ponzi scheme has celebrities. Vanity Fair takes a look into Starr’s world. *View Vanity Fair article

A focus on games could be Google’s ticket to entering the social networking arena, as the Internet giant seeks to overcome a string of lackluster initiatives that have left it on the sidelines of the booming market. *View article *View GigaOM article

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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.

DealZone Daily

Peabody Energy has raised its offer for Macarthur Coal by 14 percent to $3.8 billion — trumping a sweetened offer from local rival New Hope Corp.  In order for the deal to go through, Macarthur must ditch a vote on a proposed takeover of Gloucester Coal, a smaller local rival. The vote had been delayed to April 19.

R0bert Hingley — outgoing director general of the UK’s Takeover Panel — is joining Lazard’s financial advisory group, Lazard says. All the more interesting as senior Lazard banker Peter Kiernan is set to become the Panel’s new head. But his arrival has been delayed, ever since British lawmakers started probing Kraft’s takeover of British chocolatier Cadbury — a deal Kiernan was one of the main architects for.

Royal Bank of Scotland is whittling down the list of suitors for its 3 billion pound payment processing firm WorldPay, sources tell us. UK payments firm Voice Commerce and other suitors have dropped out of the running.

Turning the page on Borders

Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Inc reportedly has read the market and decided to turn the page on an acquisition of rival Borders Group Inc. The largest U.S. specialty bookseller, which had been looking into a bid for Borders, is likely to take a pass because of tight lending markets that would make it difficult to arrange bank financing, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation. Borders, which put itself up for sale in March, has struggled with liquidity issues and has been closing underperforming stores and taking other steps to turn around its business.

Reuters’ DealTalk columnists report that overseas metal and mining companies may have U.S. coal assets in their sights. Indian and Russian firms in particular are looking to snap up assets in order to gain a foothold in the U.S. metallurgical coal market, DealTalk says. Metallurgical coal, also called met or coking coal, is used to make coke, the material used to fuel blast furnaces at steel mills. Two assets that could be on the market are privately owned U.S. coal producers United Coal and Bluestone, one source familiar with the matter said.

Shares in Impala Platinum (Implats), the world’s No. 2 producer of the precious metal, raced 9 percent higher on Thursday partly boosted by market talk that BHP Billiton could make a $26 billion bid for the South African company. South African website www.Miningmx.com said BHP may soon have no choice but to make an offer of at least 200 billion rand ($25.65 billion) for Implats. The article said BHP, the world’s largest producer of metals and minerals, had the world’s best and most diversified portfolio of assets in the resources sector — with the exception of platinum, to which it has no exposure. “At the moment it is pure speculation, but yes, for sure the speculation is affecting the (share) price,” Roy Lamb, a trader at Investec Securities in Johannesburg said. BHP declined to comment.