DealZone

Another one bites the dust

The Essent electricity plant is seen in MoerdijkAnother auction — appropriately enough, this time of a waste management firm — is consigned to the dustbin of history. As Catherine Hornby and I wrote earlier:

“Dutch utility Essent scrapped the sale of its waste-management unit, blaming low prices and other problems with bids for the failure of an auction that had once aimed to raise a billion euros or more.

“The sale of Essent Milieu, which bankers began working on in late 2008, had originally promised to be one of Europe’s first big leveraged buyouts (LBOs) since the credit crunch, with a staple financing helping attract private equity firms such as BC Partners and PAI.

“Instead, the sale’s abrupt cancellation angered the two remaining bidders — the all-Dutch “Orange” financial consortium and U.S. waste firm Covanta (CVA.N) — and marked the latest auction scuppered by scarce debt and disagreements over price.

“None of the bids could live up to our criteria,” Essent spokesman Jeroen Brouwers said. “With these market circumstances they couldn’t offer the price we wanted.”

Deals du Jour

Abu Dhabi sells 3.5 billion pounds of shares in Barclays, making a handy profit, and sending the stock down well over 10 percent. In another share sale, wind turbine maker Gamesa is suspended after Iberdrola offloads 10 percent of the company in the market. Otherwise, cars still dominate: GM has filed for bankruptcy, Germany is to pay bridge financing to Opel today and a U.S. judge said overnight the sale of Chrysler will be effective on Friday. Here are today’s top deals headlines.

And in the newspapers:

British publishing group Pearson is in talks with Prisa over the possibility of buying a stake in Santillana, the Spanish media firm’s publishing house and market leader in school textbooks in Latin America, the Financial Times reported.
Prisa could be looking to sell up to 30 percent of the unit in a 315 million pound deal. Other bidders include Cengage Learning, Oxford University Press and Infinitas Learning, the paper says.

Citigroup Inc told about five former top executives they will not be paid tens of millions of dollars in promised severance payouts, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter as saying.

The Office: More tragedy than comedy for UK banks

Pedestrians walk in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London March 24 2009. With property markets stabilising and hopes that the worst of the financial crisis is behind us, Europe’s banks are now looking to resolve their next biggest problem: 225 billion pounds of loans backed by UK commercial property.

As Sinead Cruise and I wrote earlier today, banks are now organising to sort through this massive debt pile, picking the good from the bad, foreclosing on properties and selling off what they can.

“Lenders have long turned a blind eye to breaches of covenants as long as they met interest demands by collecting rents. But they are now abandoning this softly-softly approach as the British economy worsens, planning foreclosures on a scale not yet seen in this cycle.”

Deals du Jour

Cars dominate headlines again, with a GM bankruptcy looming and Chrysler CEO Nardelli saying he expects a deal with Fiat on Friday. In other news, Chartered Semiconductor denies a newspaper report that Advance Technology Investment has bid for Temasek’s majority stake in the firm. For today’s headlines, click here.

And here is what we found of interest in newspapers:

Credit Suisse has begun a plan to sell its London property estate and raise up to 500 million pounds ($800 million), the Financial Times reported.

Terra Firma has been forced to inject more cash into EMI after the debt-laden UK music group missed targets imposed in banking covenants, the Financial Times said. The Wall Street Journal separately said Terra Firma had put up an additional 28 million pounds to bail out EMI.

Old faces, new roles

BankUnitedThe financial crisis appears to be creating some jobs for at least one group of people – former banking executives.

As private equity firms turn their attention to banks, they are seeking out retired chiefs and other senior executives with banking experience to lead their investments and run the banks they buy. 

Besides their operational experience, these executives bring to the table a crucial quality that can sometimes make or break a group’s bid to take over a bank – street cred with U.S. banking regulators.

Back from the dead?

French and German Military surgeons perform abdominal surgery on an Afghan civilian patient at the French Military Hospital in KabulChrysler’s troubles looked so great even its own executives thought the company was headed for liquidation, however emergency surgery in the bankruptcy courts appears to have saved the patient.

As Caroline Humer and Tom Hals write, the sale of Chrysler’s main business to Italy’s Fiat and other groups looks likely to be sealed by the end of May, taking most of the company out of bankruptcy within just 30 days, hitting the government’s target deadline.

Judge Arthur Gonzalez has been instrumental in driving through the process, quickly rejecting objections from a range of creditors. A few sticking points could still hold up the sale, with a group of Indiana pension funds filing suit in a separate court, but most specialists expect the judge to approve the sale to Fiat at Wednesday’s hearing.

Deals du jour

Top deals news today includes LSE boss mulling new acquisitions, BC Partners downing tools on a BGI bid and Fiat signing a big Chinese joint venture. All the latest deals news here.

In the morning papers:

The new chief executive of London Stock Exchange Xavier Rolet has told La Tribune newspaper that he is ready to look at acquisitions and alliances but is not treating them as a priority. Reuters story here.

Borders UK, the bookshop chain owned by private equity firm Risk Capital Partners, has appointed restructuring experts RSM Bentley Jennison to advise on closing underperforming stores, The Independent reported.

“Tourists” arrive in private equity

Opportunistic buyers, lovingly dubbed “tourists” by those in the industry, have moved into the secondary private equity market. They’re looThe cruise ship from Mediterranean Shipping Company Musica dwarfs Via Garibald as it arrives in Veniceking for positions in brand-name private equity funds at knock-down prices. As I wrote in a DealTalk today:”Pension funds and wealthy middle-east sovereign wealth funds are buying up investments in private equity funds, pushing up prices and sidelining secondary firms that specialise in acquiring the assets.”The market for second-hand private equity assets — where private equity investors offload assets to specialist buyers — has mushroomed as the credit crisis has intensified. And increasing numbers of cash-strapped investors are concerned about meeting their future commitments to buyout funds.”New investors have been attracted to deals by steep discounts to net asset value, forcing up prices for specialist buyers, such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and HarbourVest Partners (HVPE.AS) that last month closed secondary funds after reaching their $5.5 billion and $2.9 billion targets respectively.”Read the full piece here.

Deals du jour

Top deals news today includes Fiat boss’s confidence about an Opel takeover, Regions Financial planning a $1.25 billion stock offer, Aussie Rio shareholders seeking a new Chinalco deal and Novartis buying cancer drugs unit. All the latest deals news here.

In the morning papers:

Fiat SpA has more than a 50 percent chance of successfully linking up with Opel, La Stampa said, citing chief executive Sergio Marchionne. Reuters story here.

British pub company Mitchells & Butlers is in talks with banks over a possible rights issue, the Financial Times reported.

Deals du jour

A man looks at local newspapers, with articles regarding France's President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit on their front pages, at a news kiosk in Mexico CityA Facebook IPO is a few years off, Bank of America raises $13.47 billion in a share sale, GM’s bankruptcy plan envisages a quick sale to government, and more. Here are the latest deal-related stories:

Facebook CEO says IPO a few years out

Bank of America raises $13.47 billion in share sale

GM bankruptcy plan eyes quick sale to government

SolarWinds IPO prices at $12.50, above range

IBM to continue being active dealmaker

Itau interested in buying small banks in Brazil

Broadcom urges Emulex investors question rosy view

Viterra to buy Australia’s ABB for $1.2 billion

Investors expect better hedge fund terms

And in the morning papers:

Global mining company Rio Tinto may replace the $7.2 billion convertible bond that is part of its tie-up with Chinalco with a capital raising underwritten by the Chinese firm, The Australian newspaper said. Reuters story here.

India’s Religare Enterprises and Australia’s Macquarie Group have jointly bid $500 million to buy AIG Investments, which manages $100 billion in client funds globally, according to The Times of India.