DealZone

Keeping score: JPMorgan leads the mid-market

Thomson Reuters data for July show the so-called “mid-market”, of deals below $500 million, has come off slightly compared to the month before, and steeply compared to the same month a year ago.

Year-to-date, JPMorgan is the busiest bank by dollar value of deals, displacing Credit Suisse, which falls from 1st to 6th. Freshfields overtakes Clifford Chance as the busiest legal outfit. A few highlights from the report:

“Global Mid-Market deal activity for July at US$40.8bn from 2,940 deals, down 6% from US$43.3bn from 3,284 deals in June. Down 42% compared to US$70.2bn from 3,627 deals in July 2008

“EMEA Mid-Market M&A activity for July at US$10.6bn (26% of total global mid-market activity), down 8.5% from June’s US$11.6bn, but down 54% compared to July 2008.

“JP Morgan topped the European Mid-Market M&A rankings, up from second position for the same period in 2008.

Nycomed crafts a buyout, 2009-style

Nycomed, the Swiss drug company, already has 4 billion euros or so of net debt and some pretty junky single-B credit ratings. But that’s not deterring the private-equity owned outfit from plotting a bid for the drugs business of Belgium’s Solvay, even in these leverage-phobic times. As I wrote earlier:

“Switzerland’s Nycomed plans to draw on buoyant junk bond markets and new cash from its private-equity owners to fund a buyout of Solvay’s drugs unit, people familiar with the matter said.

“Such a structure would allow Nycomed — which already has billions of euros of syndicated loans — to bypass the moribund leveraged loan market and would create a group with some 6 billion euros ($8.6 billion) in yearly sales.”

A little more conversation, a little more action?

It would be hard to describe July as a banner month for mergers and acquisitions.

Friday’s data from Thomson Reuters shows it was the first month since Sept. 2004 where announced deals totalled less than $100 billion, and the first month in almost six years without a single $5 billion-plus deal. But top executives are starting to talk M&A again, and bankers are starting to lay the groundwork for future deals. As Michael Erman and I wrote earlier:

“Bankers are pointing to early signs of a pick-up in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), with stronger stocks and easier credit conditions helping company bosses regain the confidence to do deals.

Deals du jour

U.S. officials consider giving CIT Group Inc a temporary loan as part of an aid package to help the lender avoid collapse; U.S. asset manager Franklin Resources Inc (BEN.N) drops out of a consortium negotiating to buy American International Group Inc’s (AIG.N) asset management unit; and The New York Times Co agrees to sell its New York City classical music radio station for $45 million, to help pay off debt. For these stories and all the other latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And here’s what’s in the newspapers and online (some links may require subscriptions):

* Belgium’s Solvay (SOLB.BR) has narrowed the list of bidders for its pharmaceuticals business to Swiss company Nycomed and Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) of the United States, FT.com reported on its website.

Deals du jour

Suntory and Kirin consider joining forces to create one of the world’s biggest beer and soft drinks companies, with annual sales of $41 billion. Meanwhile Friends Provident and Venture Production are both fending off unwanted approaches. For all the latest deals news, click here.

And here’s the latest dose of market chatter:

* McGraw-Hill has hired Evercore Partners Inc, a top U.S. merger advisory boutique to sell BusinessWeek magazine, Bloomberg said, citing a person close to the situation.

* Bank of America Corp is trying to avoid paying billions of dollars in fees to U.S. taxpayers for guarantees against losses at Merrill Lynch, saying the rescue agreement was never signed and the funding never used, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Kroes keeps up pressure

Neelie Kroes’ campaign to ensure the European Commission’s rules over state aid are respected has remained in a high gear over the last few weeks. Three times the Competition Commissioner has spoken publicly about how restructuring plans for shaky banks bailed out last Autumn should be agreed with the governments of those countries.

This Tuesday she told the British Banker’s Association the truth. Royal Bank of Scotland made the largest ever corporate loss last year and yet was still saved by the government with a massive £20 billion plus rescue injection. One might ask how such an institution, so fundamentally important for the economy, could not be?

Kroes does not dispute that. What she does insist on is that such aid cannot be effectively propping up the bank indefinitely, allowing the balance sheet, and hence the bank’s business, to remain bigger than it should be, if it were not for that aid.

Keeping score: H1 redux

Final, first-half M&A data from Thomson Reuters, released earlier on Thursday, filled out the picture painted by preliminary data last week — deal-making has shrunk dramatically, even as investment bankers find solace in a record flurry of bonds and rights issues.

One interesting wrinkle, compared to the earlier numbers, is the inclusion of Xstrata’s unwanted approach for rival miner Anglo American, valued by the number-crunchers at $42.5 billion. That helped propel Goldman Sachs to the global top spot for M&A advice, and boosted several other banks engaged on the deal.

Some other nuggets:

* Compared to the first half of 2008, announced M&A is down 40.2% to $941 billion, the slowest H1 since 2004.

Deals du jour

Magna and GM aim to sign a deal on Opel by July 15, Blackstone plans to establish a Chinese subsidiary, and AIG picks banks to run the $4 billion-plus IPO of its Asian life insurance unit – for all the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

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

* KazMunaiGas Exploration and Production, the listed arm of Kazakhstan’s national oil company, has $4bn of cash available for acquisitions and hopes to agree deals before the end of the year, its new chief executive told the Financial Times.

* Stephen Pagliuca, one of three parties interested in buying The Boston Globe, is willing to work with the U.S. newspaper’s largest union to structure a buy-out from its owner The New York Times, the Financial Times reported, citing a person familiar with the discussions.

M&A: lessons from history

Two chunky bits of M&A research landed this week (both, incidentally, drawing on Thomson Reuters data).

Cass Business School’s recently established M&A Research Centre sounded a note of a caution about the merits of buying floundering companies, even if such deals are initially welcomed by the market.

“Companies who bought distressed or insolvent rivals over the past quarter-century suffered lower returns on equity and underperformed buyers of healthy firms, a study released on Monday showed…

Deals du jour

Pfizer is seeking deals in emerging markets, while Nomura and T&D are among second-round bidders for Citigroup’s Japanese asset management arm. Get all the latest deals news from Reuters here.

And in the newspapers:

Alan Lewis, owner and chairman of overcoat maker Crombie, has made an approach to Aquascutum’s Japanese owner Renown to acquire the label’s British business including its manufacturing operation, the Financial Times reported. (Link may require subscription).

The head of German chemicals company Bayer said debt reduction and securing liquidity was taking precedence over acquisitions during the economic crisis, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. Reuters story here.