Oiling the Barclays machine

BarclaysWhen you need some fast cash, you can always count on oil money. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is reportedly considering backing a share issue by Barclays. You’ll recall that earlier this week Britain’s No. 3 bank said it would sell billions of pounds worth of shares to bolster its stretched balance sheet. The Financial Times quotes a person close to the Qatar Investment Authority as saying “We’re looking at it.” The QIA manages about $60 billion in assets and earlier this year bought under 2 percent of Credit Suisse. Qatar, which is the richest Arab country on a per capita basis thanks partly to high oil prices, is looking to spend between $10 billion and $15 billion over the next two years on bank stakes, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Reuters in February.

Of course, it’s not just the oil-rich out there poking around those struggling banks. Activist shareholder Olivant said on Wednesday it had raised its stake in Swiss bank UBS, which has been hit by massive losses on risky investments, to 2.5 percent. Olivant, headed by former UBS Chief Executive Luqman Arnold, said by taking a stake worth about $1.8 billion it was “demonstrating its belief in the potential restoration of shareholder value achievable through decisive action on the part of the UBS board”. Interpretation: We want change. How about splitting up the bank?

If banks aren’t your thing, there’s always Hollywood. Movie studio DreamWorks SKG is close to a deal with India’s Reliance ADA Group to form a new movie venture, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the talks. The Journal said a deal with Reliance would give movie director Steven Spielberg the cash to finance his DreamWorks team’s departure from Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures later this year.

And one from the Ho-Hum, Glad-its-Done Department: Office goods supplier Staples has won approval from the European Commission for its 1.7 billion euro ($2.64 billion) takeover bid for Dutch peer Corporate Express. Staples raised its all-cash offer to 9.25 euros per share from 9.15 euros last week, winning the backing of Corporate Express which also ditched its own deal to buy French privately owned competitor Lyreco.

More Deals of the Day:

** French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis plans to make a 40.04 billion Czech crown ($2.57 billion) offer for Czech drugmaker Zentiva, trumping a bid from financial group PPF.

Corporate Express Stapled

corp-express.jpgWhen at first you don’t succeed, raise, raise again. Another upped bid from Staples convinced Corporate Express management to back the unsolicited offer. The resweetened bid for the Dutch firm was 1.7 billion euros ($2.65 billion), or 9.25 euros per share, from the 9.15 euros it offered last week and a fair bit above the 7.25 euros it offered in February. Corporate Express’s defensive play for French competitor Lyreco has been scrapped (for a tidy 30 million euro breakup fee).

Oil major BP accused its Russian partners of staging a boardroom coup at their 50-50 Russian oil joint venture TNK-BP, as the two sides prepared to re-enter negotiations on the future of the company. The Wall Street Journal cites people close to the discussions as saying the talks have already broken down. BP and its Russian partners, a group of four billionaires united in the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium, have been locked in a long-running conflict over strategy and ownership at the company. Mounting pressure over recent months on the troubled oil firm, including tax probes, raids on offices and the arrest of an employee, have led analysts to speculate that a state-controlled energy giant will soon muscle in on TNK-BP.

Sovereign funds may not be thrilled with their investments in beleagured US banks, but they don’t seem too put off by the battered property market. The New York Post reports that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council is negotiating to buy a 75 percent stake in New York City’s landmark Chrysler Building for $800 million. The paper cited sources as saying the assets would be purchased from TMW, the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund. This follows last month’s deal in which a group led by Boston Properties is buying the GM Building and three others from Macklowe Properties for $3.45 billion. The Post said investors in that deal included the wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar.