Not quite last call

inbev-brito.jpgTalk about a friendly bid. InBev CEO Carlos Brito gushes about Bud in this video statement, making a $46.3 billion bid sound almost cheap. “We respect the Anheuser-Busch board a lot,” he said. “We admire them a lot and we think that the business rationale is very strong. But Bud shares are still trading well below the $65 per share offer, so skepticism abounds. With analysts calling for a bid closer to $70, expect at least a few more rounds.

India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories sees huge opportunities for growth in Japan’s generics drug market and mergers and acquisitions are a likely option for it to expand. The attractiveness of the market was a big factor in its decision to team up with Daiichi Sankyo, Ranbaxy Chief Executive Malvinder Singh told a news conference in Tokyo. Faced with an ageing population and ballooning healthcare costs, Japan’s government has recently taken steps to promote the use of the off-patent drugs — currently only 17 percent of volume compared with 63 percent in the United States. Ranbaxy and Daiichi Sankyo announced on Wednesday that Japan’s No. 3 drug maker would pay up to $4.6 billion for control of the Indian generic drugs maker.

Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit must have seen this coming. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bank plans to close the hedge fund he co-founded, and which more-or-less launched his rocket ship to the top. Last month, Citi said it was looking at restructuring the fund, called Old Lane. Nearly all investors unaffiliated with the fund have requested to redeem their money. Citi bought Old Lane last year for more than $600 million, but the fund’s performance has since been disappointing. Citi wrote down $200 million of intangible assets linked to the acquisition in the first quarter.

Other deals of the day:

*BHP Billiton took its case for a takeover of rival Rio Tinto to well-heeled investors on Thursday, saying a marriage could better capture markets in fast-industrializing Asian economies.

*InBev courted shareholders of Anheuser-Busch after making a $46.3 billion bid, hoping to add Budweiser to its own Stella Artois and Beck’s beers and create the world’s largest brewer.

The Yahoo lament

yang.jpgMicrosoft‘s $47.5 billion bid may not have met Yahoo’s price target, but the deal sure had a lot of promise, Yahoo’s Chief Executive Jerry Yang lamented during an on-stage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference. Yang said the software giant appears no longer interested in a full merger. “We did not walk away from that proposal. Microsoft did,” Yang said. This might just be a brave face for Yang, who will need one to face a potentially hostile board filled with activist agitators hand picked by Carl Icahn. Then again, Yang may feel emboldened by reports that Icahn may not be able to muster the votes to change Yahoo’s position. News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, also at the D, was quoted by Dow Jones as saying: “Icahn? That’s not serious. It’s just a lot of helpful noise.”

Royal Bank of Scotland extended yesterday’s deadline for the auction of its insurance arm, which includes its Direct Line and Churchill brands, the Daily Mail reports. First-round bids for Britain’s largest motor insurer are expected to come within days, the paper said. RBS declined to comment on the auction for RBS Insurance, expected to be valued around 7 billion pounds ($13.8 billion). Italian insurer Generali, which had been seen as a strong candidate, pulled out of the running because of the hefty price and RBS’s unwillingness to consider breaking off parts of the unit, sources close to the situation told Reuters.

A member of the founding family of Anheuser-Busch said any talks with Belgian brewer InBev should be based on shareholder value rather than the Busch family’s legacy, the Wall Street Journal reports. The comments signal a hardening of the split within the family, which could embolden InBev to make a bid for the St. Louis brewer, the newspaper said. InBev is weighing an offer that could top $45 billion, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. “A possible merger is not a family issue,” Adolphus Busch IV, an uncle of CEO August Busch, wrote in a release to the newspaper. It is not “a matter of family solidarity or legacy. It is strictly a matter of shareholder value.”

The art of watching

A model waits in the backstage before the ”Nation and Fashion” show in BudapestGE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is in South Korea, where he may or may not be hawking the industrial conglomerate’s century-old appliances division. LG Electronics CEO Nam Yong said his company was “closely watching” developments surrounding the unit’s potential sale. General Electric said earlier this month it may sell or spin off the division, estimated to be worth up to $8 billion. LG, the world’s top maker of household air conditioners, has been talked about as a potential suitor, along with China’s Haier Group. Nam added he had no plans to meet with Immelt. This watching thing appears to be deeply ingrained in LG’s lexicon — the company is also “carefully watchingNokia amid talk the top-ranked mobile phone maker may cut its prices and reenter the South Korean market.

Shares in Belgian brewer InBev, the world’s second-biggest by volume, lost over three percent after a newspaper reported it could soon start takeover talks with rival Anheuser Busch. Belgian business daily De Tijd reported that InBev’s board was about to decide whether to allow its advisers to start negotiating with Bud. This follows the FT’s report on Friday that InBev was considering a $65-a-share bid and had put together $50 billion in financing. A Busch family member, Adolphus Busch IV, told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday some family members were open to holding talks with InBev but others wanted to keep the status-quo.Germany’s embattled Hypo Real Estate has given its backing to an offer from private equity investor JC Flowers and others to buy almost one quarter of its shares, also declining to give an earnings forecast for 2008. Hypo’s stock price had been under pressure since it surprised investors with subprime-linked writedowns in January. This prompted the investment bank and property lender to look for a committed long-term shareholder to secure its future.

Blackstone Group and Apollo Management are in talks to buy chemicals company Chemtura, the Wall Street Journal reports. The negotiations could fall apart since the parties are still arranging financing and discussing the price tag on the deal, it said. Chemtura, which has a market capitalization of about $1.9 billion, said in December it was pursuing strategic alternatives. Apollo, Blackstone and Chemtura could not be immediately reached for comment.