Agrium CEO makes a plea for kindness

Agrium CEO Mike Wilson“Be kind in your article. I read this morning I wasn’t going to get the deal across,” said Agrium CEO Mike Wilson, referring to an article in Canada’s Globe and Mail about his company’s hostile bid for rival fertilizer maker CF Industries. “What the hell is that?”

Speaking on the sidelines of a BMO Capital Management agriculture, protein & fertilizer conference,  Wilson said he was frustrated by CF’s unwillingness to discuss his company’s bid, but “frustration won’t make us go away.”

Agrium bumped its cash-and-stock bid for CF to around $85 a share on Monday, increasing its previous bid more than 6 percent.

“At $85, I can’t believe (CF CEO Steve WIlson is) not going to come to us and say let’s talk,” Agrium’s Wilson said. “I’d be amazed.”

Energy asset on block at Blackstone?

USAOne intriguing remark that Blackstone COO Tony James let slip on today’s earnings call is that it could be gearing up to sell an energy asset. 
James explained that while opportunities to exit investments weren’t numerous, it had succeeded making a profit on the sale of pharmaceutical company Stiefel. 
“We have another company in our portfolio… in the energy sector, which had some very, very exciting results finding unbelievable amounts of hydrocarbons and… that might be something we’d look to exit,” James said on a call to the media. 
He didn’t identify the company so we’re doing the guessing ourselves — out of the current energy investments Blackstone lists on its website, we reckon Kosmos Energy, which has a significant oil field in Ghana, could fit the bill.

(Additional reporting by Mike Erman)

Squeezing out a smaller premium

BRITAIN/PepsiCo Inc’s offers to buy the remaining stakes in its two largest bottlers came as a surprise, but the biggest surprise may be the scant 17.1 percent premium in the overtures.
PepsiCo’s bid to buy the rest of the bottlers it does not already own constitutes a so-called “squeeze-out,” or a transaction in which the buyer already owned some portion of the target and was seeking to own the 100 percent.
Even given that squeeze-out premiums are typically lower than cases where a buyer did not own any part of the target and was seeking to acquire 100 percent, this one looks particularly low, according to FactSet Mergerstat.
The average 1-day premium for a squeeze-out deal was 35.77 percent versus the average 1-day premium of 44.10 percent for a full acquisition, FactSet Mergerstat said.
Put another way, the PepsiCo premium was half the normal premium for a typical squeeze-out. Both Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas rose above PepsiCo’s offer, suggesting that shareholders expect the deal to get a little sweeter.

First Reserve’s deal war-chest expands

oilFirst Reserve is sitting on another $9 billion of spending money for energy deals after finishing raising its latest buyout fund, Fund XII. The private equity giant, which specialises in energy investments, said the fund is the largest ever raised in the energy sector and exceeds its previous fund, Fund XI, which raised $7.8 billion in 2006. 

The fund appears to be lower than target, however. London-based private equity intelligence firm Preqin said in a recent report that the fund had a $12 billion target.

“Energy remains a large, dynamic and complex industry where change creates new, attractive investment opportunities,” said William Macaulay, Chief Executive Officer of First Reserve in the press release (below).

Another deal in healthcare: what’s the magic pill?

pillsAs dealmakers everywhere struggle to get deals done, the healthcare industry seals yet another one.

Express Scripts has agreed to buy health insurer WellPoint’s prescription business for $4.68 billion in a significant expansion for the U.S. pharmacy beenfit manager. The deal will be a concoction of cash and up to $1.4 billion in common stock, and will generate more than $1 billion of incremental EBITDA.

This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s $41.1 billion takeover of Schering Plough and Roche Holding’s $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech. Granted, this isn’t a pharma deal, but it still falls under the umbrella of the healthcare sector.

Dow Chemical: Official Rainmakers’ Punching Bag

Poor Dow Chemical.

Not only did the company end up having to buy Rohm and Haas at basically the same steep price it agreed to last year, but it has also become the favorite target of lawyers, bankers and maybe even judges at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute, an annual gathering of top dealmakers.

Timothy Ingrassia, head of Goldman Sachs mergers and acquisitions business in the Americas struck the first blow on Thursday morning.

 ”You’ve already had Dow Chemical’s unique interpretation of the merger agreement. There was never a transaction that made Apollo look better,” Ingrassia said, referring to private equity firm Apollo’s previous efforts to get out of an agreement to buy Huntsman Corp. 

JPMorgan slashing research, ex employees say

NEWYORK-BEAR    JPMorgan is cutting 30 percent of its research department, according to two former employees, but the bank is keeping mum about its plans and declined to give details of the cuts.
    David DeRose and Leighton Thomas, co-founders of a Bear Stearns alternative research unit that moved to JPMorgan when that bank acquired Bear a year ago, said on Wednesday they sold the unit to an investment firm largely because they could not hire more staff under JPMorgan’s management.
    “If you stay under a research division that’s being cut 30 percent, we can’t get any headcount,” said DeRose.
    JPMorgan intends to shed 1,000 to 2,000 jobs from its investment bank this year, co-investment bank chief Steve Black said at the bank’s investor day in February.
    It was unclear whether the cuts DeRose mentioned are included in these figures and a JPMorgan spokesman declined comment.
    Research staff may be an easy target for cuts, since it is hard to quantify their contribution to the bank’s bottom line.
    And banks’ research divisions across Wall Street have been shrinking since the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2002 banned firms from using banking fees to pay analysts.

By Elinor Comlay

Office of Executive Compensation, it’s a Public-Private Affair

NETHERLANDS/It’s hard to imagine a less free-market initiative than having Washington approve executive compensation packages. But by the same token, the astronomical fees charged by many company chiefs would seem to defy laws of gravity, though not necessarily nature. Top athletes know the score: executive compensation has a relational value that outweighs its nominal one. That is to say, it’s not how much you get paid that’s important; it’s whether your paycheck is bigger than your competitor’s. That’s how Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein can walk away with a $65 million pay check in 2006. This is a nonsensical amount of money – more than could be spent by the family Blankfein over several generations. But for Goldman Sachs shareholders, it represents a trophy.

The Senate is doubtless trying to take a deep breath after the House passed legislation aimed at taxing bonuses of AIG and other recipients of government aid. Over at the White House, details of a plan to go Dutch with private investors on the bill for the years-long rave that ended with Wall Street’s crash last year are due later today. And speaking of Dutch, the Finance Ministry in The Hague said it would tackle bonuses at companies receiving government support. And big Dutch bank ING said it was asking some staff to give back their bonus payments for 2008.

The Netherlands and the United States are in similar ways two of the biggest boosters of commercial capitalism in the history of Western civilization. Clearly, they should be taking the lead in rewriting the theory of financial Darwinism.