DealZone

M & A wrap: The man at war with Olympus

Michael Woodford asked too many questions. That’s the reason the 51-year-old Englishman gives for why he lost his job as the first-ever foreign-born CEO at Japanese camera maker Olympus a mere two weeks after he was given the role in early October.

Woodford tells Reuters investigative reporters Kirstin Ridley and Alexander Smith in a new special report that it was his inquiries into a series of questionable takeover deals and advisor payouts the company made over the past half decade, including the biggest mergers and acquisitions fee ever, that led to his ouster. Board members insist instead it was Woodford’s failure to grasp the company’s management style and Japanese culture that cost him the job, but Woodford says allegations of a “power grab” by him are not the “real story”. Now, Woodford is on a one-man campaign to “cleanse” Olympus with the goal of removing its entire board.

Giving in to pressure from many corners, Olympus on Tuesday named six men, including a former Japanese supreme court justice, to investigate the past M&A deals at the core of the scandal in a bid to stem an exodus of irate investors. The all-Japanese committee will look into $687 million in payments made to a financial adviser for the $2 billion purchase of British medical equipment maker Gyrus in 2008  and the acquisition of three companies in Japan that Olympus, under chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa’s decade-long reign at the company, later largely wrote off.

Who can get to market first? That’s the question some may be asking today after Lashou Group, China’s leading daily-deals website, filed for an initial public offering on the Nasdaq. The firm’s business model is similar to that of U.S. deals site Groupon, which is also currently in the process of filing its books for an IPO. Lashou plans to raise up to $100 million in the offering, most of which it plans to use for expanding its marketing efforts and delivery systems.

Meanwhile, Groupon has once again amended its prospectus just days before the company is expected to price its intitial public offering. As DealBook reports, the updated filing notes that the company had completed a 2-for-1 split of its voting common stock. The firm did not increase the price range of its offering from the current $16 to $18 a share, despite strong investor demand.

Deals wrap: Valuing Groupon

Groupon trimmed marketing costs in the second-quarter but its loss more than doubled as it hired new employees, the Internet daily deals company said in an update filing for its IPO.

Global brewer SABMiller is set to renew its assault on Australian bid target Foster’s later this month with a slightly higher offer likely to succeed after rival bidders fail to appear, bankers and investors told Reuters.

HSBC is selling its U.S. credit card arm to Capital One Financial Corp in a $32.7 billion deal as Europe’s top bank streamlines its mammoth operations.  Capital One said it was paying a $2.6 billion premium over the value of the loans.

Deals wrap: Splitting Kraft

Kraft said it would split itself into two listed companies, a global snacks business and a North American grocery business, and raised its full-year outlook on better-than-expected quarterly results.

Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have begun talks on what would be Japan’s biggest domestic merger, three sources said, heralding a long awaited shake-up of the nation’s industrial behemoths.  Japan Real Time reports on the clumsy merger kabuki which followed a leak to local media.

When Goldman Sachs executed a $479 million block share sale in ICBC this week to help American Express  hedge its position in the Chinese lender, it underscored the sensitivities and challenges of dealmaking in China.

Deals wrap: Groupon, LivingSocial in buying frenzy

Group buying sites Groupon and LivingSocial are both in the process of launching multi-billion dollar IPOs, but as Deal Journal reports, the companies are also “plowing full steam ahead with deal making.”

Shares of Dunkin’ Brands shot up as much as 56 percent on its first day of trading, closing at $27.85 by the end of Wednesday’s trading session. The parent of the Dunkin’ Donuts chain said it has set a 20-year target to open 15,000 new stores in the U.S., up from its current 6,800. This would surpass rival Starbucks’ numbers.

France Telecom is looking to put its Swiss, Austrian and Portugese units up for sale. Analysts say the sell-off could raise as much as $2.9 billion and pave the way for a return to shareholders.

Deals wrap: SABMiller ready for another round?

SAB Miller said it would keep talking to Foster’s Group after Australia’s largest brewer rejected the global giant’s $10.1 billion cash takeover offer as too low.

Research In Motion has lost so much value that an acquirer could pay a 50 percent premium and still buy the BlackBerry maker for a lower multiple than any company in the industry, Bloomberg reports.

Rather than moan about Groupon’s inability to say anything in the quiet period, CEO Andrew Mason should enjoy it while it lasts, writes Felix Salmon.

Deals wrap: Copycats sure to follow LinkedIn

A day after LinkedIn’s shares more than doubled in their public trading debut, analysts are scrambling to explain why the stock exploded and figure out what happens next.

The professional networking site’s IPO was being closely watched by Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga to gauge investors’ appetite for Internet companies.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg described a public offering of Facebook shares as “inevitable,” while Evelyn M. Rusli over on DealBook predicts a surge in Internet IPO’s but doesn’t think the market is setting itself up for another tech bubble burst.

Deals wrap: Glencore debuts while markets await LinkedIn

Commodities trader Glencore made a steady market debut with shares trading just above the widely expected launch price of 530 pence, giving it solid currency for potential acquisitions.

There was heavy interest in the stock on both the London and Hong Kong exchanges, due in part to the relatively small amount of shares being sold. Glencore’s Chief Executive and largest shareholder Ivan Glasenberg said demand for the shares “significantly” exceeded the amount available.

Analysts on Thursday said the 530 pence per share level was realistic and should mean strong aftermarket support. “Obviously everything is priced to do well. I don’t know whether five to ten percent upside is in the bag or not, but certainly they are trying to please investors with the price,” analyst Tim Dudley at Collins Stewart said.

Deals wrap: LinkedIn boosts IPO, pushes more air into bubble

LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, boosted the pricing of its initial public offering by 30 percent valuing the 9-year old company at a little over $4 billion, or about 17 times their 2010 revenue.

LinkedIn’s IPO, which is scheduled for Thursday, comes on the heels of what appears to be an unsuccessful offering Renren.

Earlier this month Renren, one of the biggest social networking sites in China, stock surged 29 percent in their debut but it has since dropped to below its IPO price.

Deals wrap: The value of Groupon

An online coupon sent via email from Groupon is pictured on a laptop screen November 29, 2010 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser Groupon is likely to pick Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to lead a second-half initial public offering that could value the fast-growing daily deals site at $15 billion to $20 billion, according to a source.

Commodity trader Glencore’s planned $12 billion London listing has long been seen as the first step to merging with Xstrata, in what could be the biggest mining takeover in history. The question for most analysts and investors since the IPO was confirmed is not if the deal happens but when — and how.

BP’s partners in its Russian venture TNK-BP rejected the UK oil major’s offer to settle a dispute caused by its $18 billion tie-up with Rosneft, casting further doubt on the deal.

Deals wrap: eBay’s $2.4 billion GSI buy

Visitors chat next to the Ebay logo at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz EBay said it plans to buy e-commerce company GSI Commerce, which owns Web businesses such as the flash site Rue La La and ShopRunner, for $2.4 billion. Ebay said it will offer shareholders of GSI $29.25 per share, a 51 percent premium over its closing price on Friday.

Tabula announced $108 million in funding, one of the largest venture rounds in a decade for a chip company, writes VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall. The company says it can create programmable logic devices for $200, compared to a cost of more than $1,000 offered by competitors.

Despite soaring valuations of tech companies and warnings that the bust a decade ago may be repeated, there are notable differences between the dot-com boom and now, write Evelyn M. Rusli and Verne G. Kopytoff of the New York Times. Today, the stock market is not glutted with offerings and attractive tech start-ups like Groupon have real businesses — not just “eyeballs and clicks”. But, as cash continues to pile up, the fear is that all the money cannot be put to work responsibly, they add.