DealZone

DealZone Daily

Reckitt Benckiser shares rise 2 percent — so markets are taking notice of the Daily Telegraph’s “latest tale” that the UK group could link up with Colgate-Palmolive. Benckiser is worth roughly $37 billion in the market, Colgate some $41.2 billion, so a deal would be humongous. And this just in: J.P. Morgan Cazenove will become a fully-owned part of J.P. Morgan, as the U.S. investment bank buys out its joint-venture partner Cazenove Group.

Finally, Blackstone Group’s Pinnacle Brands Corp is likely to buy U.S. frozen vegetable company Birds Eye Foods for more than $1.3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

from Summit Notebook:

Thain says put shareholders first

John Thain says he put shareholders first and his interests second in deciding to sell Merrill Lynch to Bank of America.

Thain, speaking at the Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York, said a deal to sell a partial stake in Merrill Lynch to Goldman Sachs would have been better for him, but the sale of the entire Wall Street firm to Bank of America was the best outcome for shareholders.

Over a fateful weekend in September 2008, as Lehman hurtled toward bankruptcy, AIG floundered and the financial system looked into the abyss, Merrill held discussions with Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley for various transactions, Thain said.

DealZone Daily

Sigh of relief for Cadbury? Hershey and Ferrero may join forces to launch a rival bid for Kraft‘s offer for the British confectioner, a source tells us. On a rather much smaller scale, Cosmo Pharmaceuticals plans to buy rival BioXell for around $40 million, it says. For these and all other Reuters stories on deals, click here.

Plus a look at other media (some links may require subscription):

Hyundai Motor Co is planning to sell off its stake in affiliate Hyundai Mobis Co in a block trade to comply with antitrust rules, according to online media provider eDaily.

Apollo Management, the private equity firm headed by former Drexel Burnham Lambert executive Leon Black, is planning to list on the New York Stock Exchange, the Financial Times says.

Dealzone Daily

Ferrero — the maker of Nutella — might be considering an offer for an alliance with Cadbury, Il Sole 24 Ore says, saving the British group from Kraft’s clutches. Cadbury shares aren’t moving much, which says something about how the market sees the story. Elsewhere, Austria’s Erste Bank closed its rights issue late on Monday, with demand less than stellar.

The Lehman estate files its long-expected lawsuit against Barclays Capital, according to court documents. And with UBS’s investor day and the Euro Finance Week conference in Frankfurt on elsewhere, all eyes are on Europe’s banks again.

For all other Reuters stories about deals, click here.

Dealzone Daily

Cisco says more than 40 percent of Tandberg shareholders are backing its bid for the Norwegian group now that Cisco has raised its offer to value the group at $3.4 billion.

Canon plans to buy Dutch copier and printer maker Oce for $1.1 billion. For these, and other merger Monday stories, click here.

And here’s what we found of interest in other media.

U.S. investment bank J.P. Morgan will offer 500 to 525 pence per share to buy out the 50 percent stake it does not already own in its UK stockbroker joint venture with Cazenove, according to media reports, such as in the Financial Times.

DealZone Daily

British Airways and Iberia finally agree to a merger that will create the world’s no. 3 airline by revenue. The all-stock deal, giving BA shareholders about 55 percent of the combined company, is just the (airline) ticket for the columnists: it’s cleared for takeoff after a long time on the runway and so on.

Alistair Osborne in the Telegraph says on “pure current valuation grounds, it’s not an amazing deal for BA. But strategically it presses most buttons – and there’s plenty of extra value to come from the mooted €400m of synergies, which are bound to prove an undershoot.”

Nils Pratley in the Guardian says the deal is not a glorious victory for BA, which still faces big challenges in both short- and long-haul business. While the deal is “significant, BA’s more important proposed deal is probably the attempt to secure anti-trust immunity for an alliance with American Airlines.”

DealZone Daily

In Monday’s DealZone Daily: French insurer AXA sets its sights on Asian growth. Meanwhile, General Electric Co. and Comcast Corp agree on a valuation of around $30 billion for a joint venture between NBC Universal and Comcast, ironing out what has been a key obstacle in talks so far, a source familiar with the matter says.

For more on these stories, and the rest of the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And in the newspapers:

* Indian energy giant Reliance Industries (RELI.BO) is close to a nearly $6 billion overseas acquisition and the likely target is the assets of petrochemicals firm LyondellBasell, the Economic Times reported, citing an unidentified banker.

Next in M&A: the WordPress Hug?

Maybe it’s time to add a new weapon to the old M&A arsenal of poison pills, dawn raids, and white knights — the corporate blog. You could call it the WordPress Hug.

Late on Monday, Cisco’s Ned Hooper used the company’s blog to insist it had offered “a very good price” for Tandberg, after some shareholders of the Norwegian videoconferencing company said the price was too low. (See his full post here.)

The “Driving Conversations” blog of General Motors Europe has also been a source of news on the long-running (and now abandoned) talks to sell Opel, hosting posts from GM’s chief negotiator, John Smith. (See some of his posts on the topic here.)

DealZone Daily

Mergers and acquisitions activity may be predicted to increase over the next year but in the short-term it may provide another reason for deals to be postponed. Just ask General Motors.

Other deals news in the media on Thursday:

* An investment company controlled by the Shanghai city government will own a majority stake in a planned Disney theme park that won key government approval this week, the People’s Daily reported on Thursday.

* Scripps Networks (SNI.N) is close to an agreement to acquire a majority stake in the Travel Channel from Cox Communications, the nation’s third-largest cable company, the DealBook blog reported on Wednesday.

Noted: 5-year funk means no office firesales

 	 REUTERS/Toby MelvilleDespite a looming wave of defaults, sell-offs of European offices at knock-down prices are unlikely, because commercial property prices are likely to tread water for years, rating agency Moody’s says.

in a report on the region’s commercial mortgage-backed bond market, Moody’s said it expects more loan defaults, but doesn’t think commercial property values will “materially recover” for the next five years. (Reuters report here.)

This means that special servicers — the administrators responsible for deciding the future of bust securitisations — “will not pursue immediate sale of the properties … but rather continue to collect the rental cash flows where possible and dispose of the properties under more favourable conditions, which may reduce ultimate losses,” the agency said.