Only the lawyers are cleaning up

A man cleans a row of rickshaws in Karachi July 26, 2009. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro A month of overcast skies and frequent showers indicates it is business as usual for the British summer, and for one company each day of rain brings particular displeasure.

British car cleaning firm IMO Car Wash is struggling with more than 350 million pounds of debt, and some detractors say demand for its services drops each time it rains. As such, the value of the company is almost as changeable as a British summer.

This is a headache for both its private equity owner and lenders, who have been trying to settle a restructuring of IMO’s finances since the start of the year. Disputes over valuations have sparked a battle between different groups of lenders, with the result set to be decided in a London court on Monday.

The court case has wider ramifications for European restructurings, as I wrote earlier, because the case is likely to set the tone for many restructurings to come.

Senior lenders hope to be able to clear out junior creditors from the list of borrowers if the value of the company falls below the amount of senior debt owed. The seniors think they have done enough to prove the value of the company is less than their debt; the junior lenders disagree.

Citi still mum on Al Raya Investment

(Corrects spelling of Al-Braikan in third paragraph.)

citilogo-300x200Citi continues to refuse to discuss its 10 percent stake Al Raya Investment, four days after the Kuwaiti firm’s chief executive was found dead.

A New York-based spokeswoman for Citi declined to discuss how the investment came to be, what due diligence was done before the investment was made, and what the Citi plans to due with its stake in the embattled firm.

Al Raya chief executive Hazem Al-Braikan was found dead in an apparent suicide on Sunday after a whirlwind week in which he and two other finance firms were accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of having improperly earning millions of dollars from trades in two U.S. firms.

Lazard CEO: M&A rebound still in the distance

Bruce Wasserstein

Those anticipating a quick return to the heyday of mergers & acquisitions may have a wait a little while longer. 

Lazard CEO Bruce Wasserstein told investors in a conference call that it would be four years before traditional M&A activity picks back up to earlier highs. 

“We are planning for a gradual increase in traditional M&A activity, reaching the prior period highs in about four years,” Wasserstein said.

Half empty glass

A pint of beer stands on the bar of a public house in Leeds, northern England October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis (BRITAIN)The recent history of Britain’s eccentrically-named Slug & Lettuce pubs should make a sobering read for ambitious property investors with an eye on similar investments.

The chain’s woes began in 2005, when its then owner, the SFI Group, plunged into administration due to difficulties with its finances.

Its collapse triggered property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz to buy up the group’s best outlets and bring them into his Laurel Pub Company.

Keeping score: biotech, Chinese debt and European ECM

Here are some highlights from this week’s Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard.

Medarex boosts biotechnology M&A to $5.3 billion

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $1.9 billion acquisition of Medarex lifted the volume of biotechnology M&A to $5.3 billion for year-to-date 2009, a 90% decrease from 2008 levels. Last year’s total was bolstered by the $46.7 billion acquisition of Genentech by Roche Holding. Excluding the Genentech transaction, biotechnology M&A volume is down 22% over 2008 levels. By number of deals, mergers in the sector are up 15% over last year.

With their advisory roles on the Medarex transaction, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs top the ranking of biotechnology advisors for year-to-date 2009.

Deals du Jour

China’s Sinochem approaches Australian farm chemicals group Nufarm about a possible takeover, the second time Nufarm gets interest from a Chinese firm in the past two years. The Australian group has a market value of almost US$1.9 billion, and the news sent its shares soaring.

Other deals reported by Reuters and other media on Friday included:

Spain’s Cosmen family and private equity group CVC have made a joint takeover approach for British bus and rail group National Express, the Financial Times reports, citing people close to the situation.

Hedge fund Fortress Investment Group is looking to go on an acquisition drive, which may include buying banks, insurers, and other hedge funds and financial firms, the FT reports, citing a memo.

Curiouser and curiouser

The rabbit character from Alice in Wonderland poses next to a mural artwork at entrepreneur Marc Ecko's anti-sundance party, with a Mad Hatter Tea Party theme, during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 20, 2008. The 20-feet mural depicts paparazzi with actual cameras built into the art. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES)Seen with a post-bubble eye, securitisation is a bit of a looking glass world. Lewis Carroll would probably have appreciated “synthetic” obligations not built on real assets, near-meaningless credit ratings, and legal documents that fail to do what they are designed for.

So spare a thought for holders of asset-backed bonds who have had to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

Some of the worst-affected bonds are commercial-mortgage backed securities (CMBS), which in Europe have suffered largely because of the plunging value of the property used as security for the debt.

Keeping score: UK targets, U.S. debt, industrial equity

If it’s Friday it must be Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard day. There’s a slogan for you. Anyway, here are the highlights:

Industrial Sector ECM Shows Increase Over Last Year

Bolstered by this week’s follow-on offering from Japanese airline services provider All Nippon Airways for $1.5 billion, total equity capital markets activity across the industrials sector reached  $26.5 billion, a 2% increase from the same period last year when volume was $25.9 billion.

Other large equity offerings this week came from Asian issuers including $5.5 billion from Japan’s Mizuho Financial and $1.5 billion from India’s Sterlite Industries, bringing weekly volume for the region to $9.8 billion, the second biggest week this year.

Pfizer seen circling top Turkish drug company

From Acquisitions Monthly

Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceuticals company, is lining up Turkey’s largest drugs company, Abdi Ibrahim, for a deal, according to an M&A banking source.

There are no talks so far, and what form a potential tie-up would take is not yet known.

Only last month the president of Pfizer’s emerging markets business unit revealed that the drugs company was considering new acquisitions.

Deals du jour

A brace of autos deals feature in this edition of Deals du jour. Bankrupt auto parts supplier Delphi Corp (DPHIQ.PK) has had talks with bankruptcy lenders readying a bid for its assets that could challenge a proposed sale to private equity firm Platinum Equity, people familiar with the discussions say. Meanwhile, as Christiaan Hetzner writes, General Motors will have a hard time overcoming Germany’s resistance to a financial investor if it wants to sell Opel to RHJ (RHJI.BR) in the hope that it could later buy its European carmaker back.

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

And in the newspapers (some external links might require subscriptions):

* Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), the world’s largest memory chipmaker, is expected to invest at least 1 trillion won ($790 million) in a semiconductor production facility in the second half, a newspaper reported. Reuters story here.