DealZone

Sovereign Funds sextuple down

They may be placing smaller bets, but sovereign wealth funds were back with a vengeance in the third quarter.

Global corporate mergers and acquisitions activity involving sovereign wealth funds jumped sixfold to nearly $22 billion in the quarter, with 37 deals completed. Global announced M&A volumes involving state investment vehicles stood at $21.8 billion, up from $3.6 billion in the second quarter, according to our data.

The number of deals more than doubled from 17 in the April-June period. Only two weeks into the fourth quarter, there were five pending or completed deals with a combined value of $164.7 million. At the height of the boom in the first quarter of 2006, sovereign wealth funds sealed 35 deals worth $45.7 billion.

Managers at sovereign wealth funds — those who have kept their jobs — probably feel they have a lot to make up for, having lost most of some $80 billion they poured into banking shares before the peak of the crisis.

R.I.P. Salomon Brothers

It’s official: Salomon Brothers has been completely picked apart.

Citigroup’s agreement to sell Phibro, its profitable but controversial commodity trading business, to Occidental Petroleum today puts the finishing touches on a slow erosion of a once-dominant bond trading and investment banking firm.

When Sandy Weill (pictured left) staged his 1998 coup – combining Citicorp and Travelers, Salomon Brothers was a strong albeit humbled investment banking and trading force. Yet little by little, a succession of financial crises, Wall Street fashion and regulatory intervention has whittled away at the once-dominant firm.

Not long after the Citigroup was formed, proprietary fixed income trading –  once the domain of John Meriwether, was shut down after the Asian debt crisis fueled losses that Weill could not stomach.

from Summit Notebook:

Tax evaders on the run

  By Neil Chatterjee
    The U.S. has promised it will hunt down tax evaders.
    And it seems tax evaders are on the run.
    DBS bank, based in the growing offshore financial centre of
Singapore, told Reuters it had been approached by U.S. citizens
asking for its private banking services. But when told they would
have to sign U.S. tax declaration forms, the potential clients
disappeared.  
    Swiss banks also approached DBS on the hope they could
offload troublesome U.S. clients to a location that so far has
not been reached by the strong arms of Washington or Brussels.
    DBS said no thanks. In fact many private banks and boutique
advisors now seem to be avoiding U.S. clients.
    Will this spread to other nationalities, as governments
invest in tax spies and tax havens invest in white paint?
    Is this the end of offshore private private banking?

Did he say IPO?

Speaking in New Delhi, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt said “Discussions are ongoing whether it is an IPO or another partnership,” in response to a question on whether GE was talking to Comcast to sell a stake in the fourth-placed TV network and movie studio. With Vivendi possibly just a couple weeks away from unloading its 20 percent stake in the NBC venture, and all the talk this week about Comcast gathering coins to add the content trove to its cable mix, it might seem as if Immelt is trying to conjure something like a rabbit from a hat – or a peacock from a beret.

GE and Comcast are discussing a deal under which the largest U.S. cable firm would take control of 51 percent of NBC Universal with GE, which has the right of first refusal to pick up Vivendi’s stake if the French company exercises its annual option to sell, taking the rest. “The capital markets have definitely improved,” Immelt said. There is reason to see stability and some optimism for the future,” he said.

Set aside for a moment that the sickly advertising market that NBC already faces. The market for IPOs is picking up nicely right now, but is still in an early stage of recovery, making do with a ragtag bunch of real estate investment trusts and Chinese new-market plays. What effect do you think a big media play splashing into that pool would have on investor demand for new issues?

Deals du Jour

Spain’s Banco Santander (SAN.MC) has appointed advisers to spin off its Brazilian business in a $3 billion initial public offering (IPO) to create one of Brazil’s biggest bank, the FT reports. But it’s not new — Reuters carried the story last week, which said Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and UBS would underwrite any deal. Click here for that story. More details could come from Santander today alongside its Q2 results.

In other M&A related stories reported by Reuters and other media on Wednesday:

Private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co is in the advanced planning stage for an initial public offering of stock in Dollar General Corp, a discount retailer. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and KKR are likely to underwrite the deal, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter as saying.

Sumitomo Trust and Banking has agreed to buy Nikko Asset Management, Citigroup’s Japanese asset manager, for about 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion), the Nikkei newspaper reported.

SPAC IPOs return

The team behind cash shell company Germany1 is preparing to list its next special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in October after Thursday’s 532 million euros deal with AEG Power.

A SPAC is a shell company set up by people with a proven track record in making acquisitions. They offer takeover targets a way to become public companies without having to undertake an initial public offering.

In this case, Germany1′s acquisition makes power system firm AEG a public company through a so-called ”back door” listing. 

“Tourists” arrive in private equity

Opportunistic buyers, lovingly dubbed “tourists” by those in the industry, have moved into the secondary private equity market. They’re looThe cruise ship from Mediterranean Shipping Company Musica dwarfs Via Garibald as it arrives in Veniceking for positions in brand-name private equity funds at knock-down prices. As I wrote in a DealTalk today:”Pension funds and wealthy middle-east sovereign wealth funds are buying up investments in private equity funds, pushing up prices and sidelining secondary firms that specialise in acquiring the assets.”The market for second-hand private equity assets — where private equity investors offload assets to specialist buyers — has mushroomed as the credit crisis has intensified. And increasing numbers of cash-strapped investors are concerned about meeting their future commitments to buyout funds.”New investors have been attracted to deals by steep discounts to net asset value, forcing up prices for specialist buyers, such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and HarbourVest Partners (HVPE.AS) that last month closed secondary funds after reaching their $5.5 billion and $2.9 billion targets respectively.”Read the full piece here.

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)

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).

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