DealZone

Could Google/China bust up be bad for Disney’s bus stop?

Walt Disney is leading a group effort to buy into China’s largest bus-based digital media and advertising company, Bus Online. The investment would be peanuts for Disney, but the headache could wind up being jumbo sized because one of their investors in the bus deal, sources tell us, is Google.

Google threatened to quit China only a few weeks ago and the internet search giant is finalizing a deal that will let the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) help it investigate the corporate espionage attack it thinks originated in the People’s Republic. China has warned the U.S. not to make politics out of the Google issue, but it may be too far into the saber-jangling season for that, with Barack Obama having announced fresh U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan in his State of the Union address.

Though Google’s stake in the Bus Online deal is said to be small, even smaller than the tiny investment this will be for media giant Disney, it could just be big enough to cause headaches for Mickey and Co.

Bus Online is leading China’s media and advertising charge into this busy area of mass transit. It had revenue of only about 314.5 million yuan ($46.07 million) in 2009, but is the exclusive partner of state broadcaster CCTV and the official Xinhua news agency media content in advertising on buses. Sources tell us that senior Disney executives are set to fly to Beijing to meet media regulators to discuss Mickey’s long-term development plan in China, including the Bus Online deal.

The consortium planned to buy a stake of between 30 and 40 percent in Bus Online for more than $100 million via a purchase of old and new shares to be issued by the company in private placements. In November, Disney made a breakthrough deal to build one of its signature theme parks in Shanghai, marking a major advance for Western media and entertainment companies seeking to crack the tough Chinese market. With Google aboard, though, will the wheels of that bus come to a political stop?

Obama’s bank plan — good for M&A?

President Barack Obama’s plan to limit financial risk-taking could drive eager bankers, who had seen the juiciest business at the prop desks, to return to Mergers and Acquisitions — the former darling desk of Wall Street.

Picking a fight with the financial titans (that just last week sent their top executives to offer platitudes to Congress about the financial disaster they created), the administration unveiled a plan that would stop banks from playing with their own money to take risky positions – the so-called proprietary trading operations.

Way back when, these were small, cloistered parts of the business, shying away from attention and very much in the shadow of the mighty M&A side of the investment banking world.

Deals du Jour

A man carries a cardboard with a picture of a mobile phone inside a hall of the upcoming CeBIT fair in Hanover March 2, 2009. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke (GERMANY)

Portugal Telecom <PTC.LS> and Spanish firm Telefonica <TEF.MC> have both agreed to sell their 32.2 percent stakes in Moroccan telecoms firm Meditel to local investors in a deal likely to be closed by the end of the year

Reports suggest that online telephony firm Skype is set to be sold to private investors by its current owner eBay, with further details likely to be announced today. Sources indicated to the New York Times that co-founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen is among the group of investors.

For the latest news from Reuters on mergers and acquisitions click here.

Here are some of the stories reported in today’s press (some external websites may require subscriptions):