HSBC: Long China, Short U.S.

HSBC/HSBC Holdings, Europe’s biggest bank, says it hopes to boost its stake in China’s Bank of Communications. On the face of it, this should raise no eyebrows. HSBC has been in China in one way or another since the height of the British Empire. This is its area of expertise, and it’s not surprising the bank would seek to lead the charge into China, even in a period of global financial market meltdown and economic retreat.

What is more interesting is the rationale being employed by HSBC executives. “Our U.S. business has contracted and there is room for us to seek opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region,” HSBC’s executive director and chairman for Asia-Pacific, Vincent Cheng, told reporters. “We will increase our stake in BoCom if opportunities arise.”

Traditionally conservative HSBC was badly burned in the U.S. mortgage party. The bank said on Monday it would close most of its U.S. consumer finance business as it seeks to put an end to its troubled 2003 purchase of Household by writing off most of the value of the subprime business. “With the benefit of hindsight, this is an acquisition we wish we had not undertaken,” HSBC Chairman Stephen Green said. HSBC bought Household for $14.8 billion — its biggest acquisition ever and one noted for its high-risk exposure to subprime lending.

HSBC said it would take a $10.6 billion goodwill charge for its U.S. business, leaving its main focus in the world’s biggest economy on corporate and commercial business, private and premier banking, and credit cards.

Now it wants to up its bet on China by raising its stake in BoCom to 20 percent, the maximum permitted by the government. Its current 19 percent chunk is worth $6.7 billion. BoCom says it would be willing to have HSBC take up to 40 percent by August 2012 if the government approves.

Reality Bites

An unidentified protesting shareholder faces Deutsche Bank CEO Ackermann during the annual shareholders meeting in FrankfurtDeutsche Bank‘s latest writedown comes with a reality check – the global credit crisis it had largely fought off is still snarling away. The top German bank’s $3.6 billion in fresh writedowns come with a reversal of optimism from CEO Josef Ackermann. “We remain cautious for the remainder of 2008,” he said as his bank became one of the world’s top crisis casualties. As late as November, Ackermann had been suggesting no further writedowns would be necessary, and had stood by a 2008 pretax profit goal of 8.4 billion euros. Now, with no indication that the books are completely cleaned of toxic paper, further write-offs seem a lot less unlikely and that full-year profit goal is going quietly by the wayside.

Japan’s TDK Corp said it plans to buy German electronic parts manufacturer Epcos for $1.9 billion in cash, as it pursues growth overseas and seeks to expand sales of industrial-use components. TDK said in a statement it would launch a friendly tender offer for all shares of Frankfurt-listed Epcos, offering 17.85 euros ($27.81) per share, a 29 percent premium to the closing price on Wednesday and valuing the deal at 1.2 billion euros. TDK said the offer would begin at the end of August. The acquisition is expected to boost TDK’s global market share of capacitors and inductors just as price falls hit earnings at rivals such as Murata Manufacturing and Kyocera, analysts said.

Global lender HSBC is likely to stand firm on its $6.3 billion bid to buy Korea Exchange Bank from U.S. private equity firm Lone Star as a formal deadline looms, cheered by a more accommodating South Korean government. The long-running deal, mired in outstanding legal issues, is seen as a test of whether South Korea is genuine in its pledge to open its financial sector wider to international investors. A successful deal would be the biggest cross-border move in South Korea’s banking sector and catapult HSBC into the ranks of the country’s top local banks.

This Bud’s for you

bud.jpgU.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch accepted a hopped-up $52 billion takeover bid from Belgium-based InBev. InBev agreed to pay $70 per share for the maker of Budweiser, up from its original unsolicited bid of $65 per share, both companies said on Monday. The improved offer marked a 27 percent premium to Anheuser’s record-high stock price in October 2002. The deal is expected to gain regulatory approval. It would be the largest in the industry and the third-biggest ever foreign takeover of a U.S. company. Now, let the naming begin. While not nearly as bouncy as Microhoo, the union does lend itself to some intriguing combinations. The company seems to be settling on Anheuser-Busch Inbev. ABI Brewing, or ABIB, could suggest beer drinkers need to protect their shirts. The company could certainly be forgiven for seeking something more mouth friendly. Some DealZone suggestions from reporters who have spent far too much time thinking about it: InBusch, AmBusch, InBever-Busch, AmBever, BudBev or BevBud, lending itself to BevBuddies and BuddyBev.

Spain’s Santander is buying British bank Alliance & Leicester for 1.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in an agreed deal that will bulk up its existing UK bank Abbey. Santander, Europe’s second-biggest bank after HSBC, has long been considered a potential buyer of A&L, but has been able to secure a knockdown price after a collapse in its target’s share price in the past year. Santander said it was offering 1 of its shares for every three A&L shares, plus a cash dividend of 18 pence per share. The deal values A&L stock at 317p, compared with a 12-month high of 1,170 pence. A&L shares soared 54 percent to 338 pence by 1000 GMT after Santander confirmed the deal, reflecting the prospect that a takeover battle could ensue.

GlaxoSmithKline could pay Swiss company Actelion up to 3.3 billion Swiss francs ($3.28 billion) to develop a promising insomnia drug in the largest biotech partnering deal. Glaxo, Europe’s biggest drugmaker, beat many of the world’s top pharmaceuticals companies to partner Actelion’s sleeping pill almorexant and the deal sent the Swiss biotech’s stock soaring nearly 10 percent. “The deal terms already allow significant value to be transferred to shareholders,” said Landsbanki Kepler analyst Denise Anderson. Glaxo, which like other big drugmakers is keen to snap up promising new medicines to bolster its pipeline, had been tipped as a likely partner for almorexant, currently in late-stage clinical development. But some analysts had questioned whether it would go for the deal as it has the only other similar drug in clinical development, on hold in mid-stage trials.

The Big Sale at Ford

Logos of the carmakers Jaguar and Land Rover are pictured during the first media day of the 78th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva

 Ford‘s soon-to-be-signed sale of Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors could bring in as much as $2.65 billion, according to local TV, or $2 billion according to the FT. Though the stage appears to be set, a Tata Group spokesman told Reuters discussions were ongoing. Tata Motors, India’s top vehicle maker maker of trucks and busses, received union backing for the deal and was named the front-runner in January by Ford, which is seeking to shore up its balance sheet and reduce debt.

JPMorgan‘s revised takeover offer for Bear Stearns is a “high risk transaction,” Punk Ziegel analyst Richard Bove said after JPMorgan boosted its all-stock offer five-fold to about $10 a share. “What is most disturbing about this deal is that it uses a great deal of Morgan capital to buy a company that is losing market share, in a series of businesses that are declining in size, with a top management team that is best described as sclerotic,” the veteran bank watcher wrote in a note to clients. “Investors believe that JPMorgan is underbidding for Bear Stearns… I do not. … Bear Stearns is a deeply troubled company which would have no value if the Federal Reserve had not stepped in to bail it out.”

China’s state-owned aluminum giant Chinalco - which teamed up last month with Alcoa to buy a $14 billion stake in Rio Tinto - may spend more than $4 billion this year on acquisitions at home and abroad, according to the South China Morning Post. That’s no great pile of investment. BHP has bid $147 billion for Rio. Though the company did not specify targets, it said non-ferrous metals would be the main focus.