DealZone

DealZone Daily

Kraft Foods Inc sweetened its offer for British confectioner Cadbury, lifting the cash component of its $10 billion hostile bid by 60 pence a share. While a sweetened offer was widely expected, less anticipated was a deal by the U.S. food giant to sell its North American Pizza unit to Swiss rival Nestle for $3.7 billion. Nestle has since ruled itself out of the race for Cadbury, ending speculation about one potential rival bidder.

Nestle had fanned the flames of speculation with a deal to sell its majority stake in eye care firm Alcon to minority partner Novartis, but it’s now clear the money is not destined for Cadbury shareholders.

French oil company Total signed a $2.25 billion deal to take a 25 percent stake in Chesapeake Energy’s Barnett Shale gas fields in north Texas, following similar investments by U.S. and European rivals in North American shale gas.

For more on these and other deal-related stories from Reuters, click here.

In other media:

Sportech, the football pools operator, has agreed a new 91 million pound credit facility to help it pursue a “significant acquisition”, raising speculation it could bid for state-owned bookmaker the Tote, the FT and Daily Telegraph report.

British private equity firm Lyceum Capital has taken a majority stake in energy advisory business McKinnon and Clarke, valuing the Scottish company at 22 million pounds, the FT reports.

Alcon is eye candy for Nestle

Swiss drugmaker Novartis is, as expected, exercising an option to buy a 52 percent stake in world-leading eye care firm Alcon from Nestle. It is paying $28.1 billion for Nestle’s stake, bringing its holding to 77 percent, and aims to buy out the remaining 23 percent of the company held by minority shareholders for $11.2 billion. What’s raising eyebrows is the offer of 2.80 Novartis shares for each remaining Alcon share, which amounts to just $153 per share compared with the $180 agreed with Nestle.

Novartis already owns CIBA Vision, the contact lens business, and is ogling an enlarged eye care business with pro-forma 2008 net sales of $8.5 billion. Analysts say it will ultimately need to offer minority shareholders more to get them on board.

What might be more eye-catching in this deal is what it could mean for another one. All cashed up, might Nestle – better known for KitKats than contact lenses – wade into the Cadbury deal, giving suitor Kraft’s bid some serious competition?

DealZone Daily

The New Year starts with a massive — though widely expected — deal as Novartis (NOVN.VX) says it plans to buy the rest of eye-care group Alcon (ALC.N) for almost $40 billion. The seller is Swiss food group Nestle, which as it happens is sometimes mooted as a rival for  Kraft’s (KFT.N) hostile 10 billion pound bid for Cadbury (CBRY.L). The British chocolate maker’s shares nudge up 4 pence to above 800 pence after media reports that Kraft is set to raise its offer. But markets were expecting a higher bid anyway.

And shares in Japan Airlines Corp (JALSF.PK) jump 31 percent as the country’s government looks to secure funds to prevent the carrier from running out of cash.

For more on these and other deal-related stories from Reuters, click here.

In other media:

National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) is gearing up for a takeover of nationalised British lender Northern Rock (NRKx.L) and has held a “beauty parade” of potential advisers on the deal, British newspaper The Observer reports.

Sweet nothings

FerreroOn a slow day, when most people are subconsciously counting down to the New Year, we thought we will bring you a quick update on the sweetest deal in the works — the churning battle for Cadbury.

Italian chocolate giant Ferrero, it seems, is still examining its options on a possible bid for Cadbury, which has rejected a $16.2 billion offer from U.S. food group Kraft.

A Ferrero spokesman tells our colleague in Milan: “Things are exactly as they were a month ago. Nothing has changed.”

DealZone Daily

“Saab story ends” we wrote on these pages last week. Now it has begun again, after Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker raised a last-minute bid over the weekend. It looks as if there are other options, with General Motors saying it will look into several new expressions of interest for its Swedish unit. That’s only two days after it said it would start an orderly wind-down.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) is buying 60 percent in Turquoise, its rival launched by a group of investment banks with a lot of fanfare two years ago. The centuries-old bourse will merge Turquoise with Baikal, its dark pool platform.

Kraft’s (KFT.N) hostile bid does not reflect Cadbury’s (CBRY.L) value, a significant number of big Cadbury shareholders thinks — that’s what Cadbury Chief Executive Todd Stitzer told my U.S. colleagues on Friday. ”It appears that the stand-alone value of the company has risen in the eyes of shareholders,” he said. Meanwhile, the New York Times writes that Britain is going “into an emotional tailspin” over the prospect of losing Cadbury. If that’s the case, they’re hiding it well — must be the stiff upper lip.

DealZone Daily

Nomura (8604.Tis to buy Tricorn Partners, a London corporate finance boutique. The Japanese bank is making the acquisition to beef up its corporate broking business. It is currently corporate broker to eight British companies including Tesco. The value is not disclosed.

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund is serious about mitigating losses it faces from its purchase of securities in Citigroup (C.N) in 2007. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has filed an arbitration claim against the US bank alleging  misrepresentation. It wants Citigroup to rescind on the investment agreement or pay more than $4 billion in damages.

In Australia, BHP Billiton (BHP.AXoffers to buy Queensland’s coal freight business. The state government of Queensland last week announced plans to float the business, a move which wasn’t popular with miners and rival rail groups who had expected the business to be separated.

Kraft unwraps bid

Kraft Foods posted its offer to Cadbury shareholders with terms unchanged on Friday, triggering a two-month, 10.1 billion pound takeover fight for the British chocolate company.
Read the story here

The formal bid matches its indicative offer, worth 300 pence in cash and 0.2589 new Kraft shares for each Cadbury share, which the U.S. food giant said valued Cadbury at 713 pence.
For the full prospectus, go to Kraft’s transaction website. Link here

A rival bidder could reveal its hand any time within the next 60 days, under UK takeover rules. Italy’s Ferrero and U.S.-based Hershey are considering making a bid. Analysts say the two could team up.

Kraft’s anti-climax?

North American food giant Kraft is due to post its offer documents to Cadbury shareholders by Dec. 7, but this latest milestone in the 10 billion pound takeover saga may turn out to be more damp squib than giant Toblerone.

Kraft could indeed post the documents ahead of time as the Times reported this week. With no significant changes to the structure or value of the offer anticipated, the event is unlikely to captivate or move the markets, however.

Keeping the terms exactly the same would be typical behaviour for Kraft, as we said last month here. The company formalised its indicative offer in the hope that no rival bidders would emerge to pressure it to up its bid. Despite Wispas — sorry, whispers — about Hershey, Nestle, and Ferrero, no rival has come forward yet.

Hostilities resume

wwwreuterscomboxing1(Acquisitions Monthly) The past year has seen the return of the hostile bid approach, requiring advisers to deploy their full range of defensive skills to fend off such opportunistic offers, or force the bidders to raise their price.

Finding the right balance between those two goals can be notoriously tricky. In theory, National Express defended itself successfully from a series of approaches this year, initially from transport rival First Group then from private equity group CVC in conjunction with major shareholder the Cosmen family and latterly Stagecoach.

However, this victory looks Pyrrhic. The company’s share price is 25% below the high point it reached during the offer period. Added to that, the board also now faces a disgruntled shareholder base. Hedge funds are seeking quick profits while its largest investor is at strategic odds with the directors and unwilling to support a rights issue.

DealZone Daily

Shares in banks, builders and companies part-owned in the Middle East fall around the world, and investors seek safety in government bonds on worries about Dubai’s ability to pay its debts.

Meanwhile, global miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) dismisses talk that rival Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) is baulking at a proposed $116 billion joint venture in iron ore, insisting the two are close to a binding agreement.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

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