DealZone

DealZone Daily

The pursuit of Cadbury is rapidly becoming a one horse race after Italy’s Ferrero ruled itself out of the fight and cut off talks with potential bid partner Hershey, leaving only the U.S. chocolate maker to declare its hand in the battle for the British confectioner. Cadbury, meanwhile, yesterday put the finishing touches to its defence against U.S. food giant Kraft’s 10.5 billion pound hostile bid by promising an improved performance and a raised dividend.

Luxembourg-based investment firm Genii Capital intends to improve its bid for Swedish carmaker Saab in order to catch the eye of seller General Motors. Bids from Genii, which is working with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and Dutch carmaker Spyker have failed to prevent GM from appointing advisers to oversee the wind-up of the business.

India telecoms group Bharti Airtel has created a new unit to pursue emerging markets acquisitions after failing to reach a deal with South Africa’s MTN last year.

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And in other media:

Kraft’s hostile bid for Cadbury will be used a case study in a meeting between Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and influential institutional investors, The Times writes, as he urges them to take a longer term view in their investments.

DealZone Daily

Cadbury posts its final defence against Kraft’s hostile takeover, but a muted share price reaction shows it is not changing market views about the deal much.  Ferrero, the Italian chocolate maker, is “very close” to taking a decision on whether to launch a counterbid together with U.S. group Hershey, a source close to the operation tells Reuters. Italy’s Il Messagero reported earlier Ferrero was securing a $4.5 billion syndicated loan.

General Motors repeats it is closing down Saab, because it has not yet received a credible bid. Dutch group Spyker meanwhile, says it remains hopeful that a deal can be reached.

And in other media:

Ford remains open to talks with potential bidders for its Volvo cars unit, despite a commercial agreement on a sale with China’s Zhejiang Geely, Sweden’s Dagens Industri says.

Sweet nothings

FerreroOn a slow day, when most people are subconsciously counting down to the New Year, we thought we will bring you a quick update on the sweetest deal in the works — the churning battle for Cadbury.

Italian chocolate giant Ferrero, it seems, is still examining its options on a possible bid for Cadbury, which has rejected a $16.2 billion offer from U.S. food group Kraft.

A Ferrero spokesman tells our colleague in Milan: “Things are exactly as they were a month ago. Nothing has changed.”

DealZone Daily

Shares in banks, builders and companies part-owned in the Middle East fall around the world, and investors seek safety in government bonds on worries about Dubai’s ability to pay its debts.

Meanwhile, global miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) dismisses talk that rival Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) is baulking at a proposed $116 billion joint venture in iron ore, insisting the two are close to a binding agreement.

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And here’s the top stories from the newspapers (some external links may require subscription):

DealZone Daily

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here. And here’s the top stories from the newspapers (some external links may require subscription):

Italian chocolate maker Ferrero could be interested in Cadbury‘s gum and candy division, a unit worth about 5 billion euros ($7.4 billion), in a possible joint takeover bid, business daily Il Sole 24 Ore said on Friday.

TPG, Blackstone, Warburg Pincus, BC Partners and Advent are among the first-round bidders for discount retailer Matalan, which is being auctioned with an estimated price tag of about 1.5 billion pounds, the FT said.

Sweet nothings for Cadbury

So far, Cadbury’s hope that Italy’s Ferrero and U.S.-based Hershey will make a counter-bid for the chocolate company look like a pipedream. Cadbury’s stock has ticked up but is still pretty much where it has been since Kraft’s hostile $16.8 offer hit the market. Nobody appears to be buying the idea that a white-chocolate knight will come up with a bid to seriously rival Kraft’s.

The chance of a joint Ferrero-Hershey bid may be slim. Questions about funding commitments and investment restrictions set on Hershey by its charitable trust ownership structure make any deal involving the maker of chocolate kisses a tough sell.

And market sources say that if they were successful, a Ferrero-Hershey tie-up would likely lead to a breakup of Cadbury along geographic lines.

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.

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