Dimon: never say never

Jamie DimonJPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon may have enough on his plate – for now.

With the bank still digesting its two major purchases from last year — Washington Mutual’s banking operations and Bear Stearns — Dimon seems ready to take a break from deals and focus on integration.  

A worsening economy is also keeping the industry on edge. “Common sense tells you it will get worse and we should prepare for that,” Dimon said on a conference call after the bank announced lower fourth-quarter profit. He said 7.5 percent to 8 percent unemployment is “the minimum we’ll see.”

JPMorgan is “not out there looking” for an acquisition. And there is nothing that the bank is looking to divest, Dimon said.  

But Dimon is leaving the door ajar in case opportunity knocks yet again. “We would never say never.”

(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Wilbur still wants a bank

Wilbur RossWilbur Ross is still in the running for a bank, although his plans to buy one were delayed when the U.S. government stepped in with its $700 billion package to bail out the sector, the investor told CNN Money in an interview.

The rescue package delayed Ross’ plans by six to 12 months, the report said.

“We will end up with a bank, there is no doubt about that,” the report quoted Ross as saying.

Crystal ball: PE active in finance

Crystal ballHaving largely held off from picking up cheap financial services assets last year, private equity firms will boost their buying as low valuations make assets in the sector too attractive to pass up, a new report predicts.

The increased interest will come as these firms look for ways to  use funds raised in the last two years and regulators further loosen restrictions on ownership of banks, independent advisory firm Freeman & Co projects in its annual summary on transactions. Buyout shops have about $600 billion to work with.

Private equity tested the financial sector waters last year – and sometimes got burned. But they have continued to look at the sector with interest. Private equity firms put in $23 billion in 84 financial services deals last year, down 69 percent from 2007, Freeman said.

American Greetings wins over RPG

American Greetings evidently found the perfect way to smoothe over a tiff.

Recycled Paper Greetings agreed to be bought by the second-largest U.S. greeting card maker, which was attracted to the smaller rival’s “witty, funny and fresh content.”

The agreement comes after a spat in September, when American Greetings said on an earnings conference call that it had bought $44 million of distressed RPG debt.

RPG Chief Executive Jude Rake said in a statement at the time that he was taken by surprise by the announcement, and called the actions of the larger rival “predatory.” RPG said it had even filed a lawsuit against American Greetings earlier.

GMAC’s Christmas present

Santa ClausThe Fed donned the red suit on Christmas eve for GMAC, giving the troubled auto finance company the nod to become a bank holding company.

The speedy approval should not come as a surprise, given that GMAC lends to consumers and GM depends on the finance company to sell cars — factors that could make its survival seen as key to fixing the economy.

The new status gives the company access to government lending programs and should allow it to continue financing loans for GM cars.

Disk trouble

Sandisk flash memory cardsAnother day, another round of hand-wringing: Do I, or don’t I? That seems to be the mantra of top executives mulling buys in what continues to be a rocky market while those on the receiving end are left wondering will he, or won’t he?

So far, it ain’t looking good — for the sellers, or the buyers.

Late last night, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s top memory chip maker, decided to dump its pursuit of flash memory card maker SanDisk Corp. That unsolicited deal would have been worth $6 billion, but Samsung apparently got cold feet after seeing SanDisk’s wider-than-expected quarterly loss.

“Your surprise announcements of a quarter billion dollar operating loss, a hurried renegotiation of your relationship with Toshiba and major job losses across your organization all point to a considerable increase in your risk profile and a material deterioration in value, both on a stand-alone basis as well as to Samsung,” Samsung CEO Lee Yoon-woo wrote to SanDisk management in a letter disclosed by Samsung on Wednesday.