DealZone Daily

Thursday’s highlights:

National Australia Bank made a surprise trump bid for AXA Asia Pacific Holdings’ Australian and New Zealand units on Thursday, in a cash deal that would value all of the target firm at around $12 billion.  The bid tops an offer from Australian life insurer AMP Ltd, which had faced resistance from AXA Asia Pacific’s independent directors who were looking for a higher offer.

Private equity firm Apollo Management said it had agreed to buy Ohio theme-park company Cedar fair for $635 million. The total deal is valued at $2.4 billion including the refinancing of the firm’s outstanding debt.

And in news elsewhere:

Bailed out U.S. insurer American International Group plans to file a prospectus for a multi-billion dollar IPO of its Asian life insurance unit before Christmas, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.  The Hong Kong IPO of American International Assurance is expected to raise $10 billion to $20 billion, the paper said.

Deutsche Bank has emerged as a key bidder for commodities trading company RBS Sempra. RBS said it was selling its 51 per cent stake in the commodities trading company in November, which it jointly owns with Sempra Energy, the FT said.

DealZone Daily

British publisher Informa is in talks to buy its German rival Springer Science and Business Media from private equity firms Candover and Cinven, the FT says.

Informa initiated talks with Springer three weeks ago and is considering an all cash bid, according to its story, but private equity firms including Apax and EQT are still looking at the business.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And here are the top stories from the newspapers (some external links may require subscription):

Uncle Sam, a shareholder forever?

ShareholderHow long will it take the U.S. government to disentangle itself from the financial services sector?

More than 16 years, according to a new Piper Jaffray paper.

“The more likely answer may be that the U.S. government may never be fully repaid,” reads the paper, “Opportunities for Private Equity in Financial Services,” released last week.

The estimate is based on assumptions, including that $3 trillion of U.S. government funding has to be fully repaid and no addition funds are drawn from $23.7 trillion in commitments. 

Deals du Jour

ING sells its 51 percent stake in a wealth management joint venture to partner Australia and New Zealand Banking Group for $1.6 billion as the Dutch group slims down through asset sales.

ING is offloading assets to raise 6-8 billion euros, and is also selling its Asian and Swiss private banking assets. HSBC is the front-runner to buy the Asian private bank assets, sources tell Reuters.

In other M&A news:

Britain’s biggest pubs group, Punch Taverns, puts more than 300 of its worst performing pubs up for sale as it strives to cut its debt pile.

Deals du Jour

Wall Street banks and lawyers could collect nearly $1 billion in fees from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and American International Group to help manage and break apart the insurer, the Wall Street Journal said, citing its own analysis.

The following M&A related stories were reported by Reuters and other media on Thursday:

Jewelry retailer Finlay Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 protection and said it would sell its assets in an auction supervised by the bankruptcy court. The company listed assets and debt in the range of $500 million to $1 billion in its filing, Reuters reported.

Auto insurer launches virtual toolbox

nationwide-mobile-screenshot-1Auto insurer Nationwide has joined businesses such as Kraft Foods, eBay and in developing applications that customers can access on Apple’s popular iPhone.

While Kraft’s iFood Assistant offers recipes and shopping lists for consumers, Nationwide’s application gives policyholders instant tools to help deal with some of the calls and paperwork that follow a vehicle bust-up, including access to tow truck service, and getting a claim started.

Nationwide says it is the first insurer to launch such an application, or “app” as iPhone tools are more often referred to.

Who’s your boss, Mr. Liddy … and for how long?

Edward Liddy was appointed chief executive of insurer American International Group Inc within hours of a Sept. 16 government rescue, averting the 89-year-old insurer’s collapse.

On Monday, fifty-five days after stepping into the corner office, Liddy unveiled the company’s biggest-ever loss. Concurrently, the U.S. government restructured most elements of  its initial AIG bailout in favor of a new better-for-AIG scheme, overshadowing the bad quarterly news.

Under the revised plan, AIG gets easier repayment terms and, most importantly, the U.S. Treasury will sink $50 billion  into a fund that will buy and hold mortgage derivatives, including those underlying AIG credit default swaps — a thorny area that has led to massive losses for the insurer.

AIG says to report ‘earnings’. Really???

American International Group, the once giant insurer which has become best known as a sinkhole for government money, says it will report third-quarter results on Nov. 10.

Most notable was how AIG described what almost certainly was one of the ugliest reporting periods in financial history: “AIG’s earnings release and financial supplement will be available in the investor information section” of its website.

Earnings? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the use of the word “earnings” means money was earned during the quarter, or that the company will report there was money left in the coffer after pay outs. That is unlikely, at least based on analysts’ expectations.