Soros goes long on Lehman

George SorosGeorge Soros must see something he likes in Lehman Brothers. Or maybe he just likes a good bargain. Or maybe he’s been talking to activist investor Carl Icahn. Either way, the billionaire financier hiked his stake in the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank to 9.5 million shares as of June 30 from just 10,000 shares, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday. That’s about a 1.4 percent stake. Lehman’s shares are down 75 percent so far this year as it battles through the credit crisis that has battered the balance sheets of many top banks. There was no word from Soros’s Quantum Fund on why he upped the stake, while a Lehman spokesman declined to comment.

Boosting stakes seems to be the play du jour. Hedge fund Harbinger Capital Management has accumulated a 4.9 percent stake in Cablevision Systems Corp, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing regulatory filings. It’s unclear what Harbinger intends to do with its holding, but it may explain some uncharacteristic overtures that Cablevision has made to shareholders in recent months. In July it said it was willing to consider all options, including selling its Rainbow Media unit, home to cable TV networks like AMC and IFC, as well as MSG, which owns venues like Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. “Everybody was wondering why Jimmy got religion all of a sudden,” one analyst told the Journal.

And one from the trash talk department: Republic Services Inc, the third largest U.S. trash hauler, said on Thursday it had rejected Waste Management Inc‘s revised buyout offer. The new proposal continues to undervalue Republic, the company said in a statement. As a result, Republic will not furnish information to or discuss a combination with Waste Management, the biggest U.S. trash hauler. In other words: No thanks.

More deals of the day:

* Irish business services group DCC Plc said it would buy Chevron’s UK oil distribution business for 27.52 million euros ($41 million), in a move analysts saw as an attractive way of boosting earnings.

* Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is in talks to buy German generics drugmaker Stada, Israeli website Globes online reported, sending Stada shares up.

Stockholder activism: just a game of chess

chess.jpgThe Delaware court ruled in favor of Jana Partners, allowing the hedge fund and its partners to nominate directors to CNET Networks’ board, come the next shareholder meeting.

But that decision is “just another move on the chess board,” according to CNET’s CEO Neil Ashe. In an e-mail to employees, Ashe compared¬†fights between activist shareholders and managements for board control to chess matches.

“Remember, stockholder activism is more common place today,”¬†Ashe wrote. “We are not alone. The New York Times and IAC are both addressing similar situations. As I’ve said since the beginning, this is like a chess match.”