DealZone Daily

British Airways and Iberia finally agree to a merger that will create the world’s no. 3 airline by revenue. The all-stock deal, giving BA shareholders about 55 percent of the combined company, is just the (airline) ticket for the columnists: it’s cleared for takeoff after a long time on the runway and so on.

Alistair Osborne in the Telegraph says on “pure current valuation grounds, it’s not an amazing deal for BA. But strategically it presses most buttons – and there’s plenty of extra value to come from the mooted €400m of synergies, which are bound to prove an undershoot.”

Nils Pratley in the Guardian says the deal is not a glorious victory for BA, which still faces big challenges in both short- and long-haul business. While the deal is “significant, BA’s more important proposed deal is probably the attempt to secure anti-trust immunity for an alliance with American Airlines.”

David Wighton in the Times cautions that “stapling together two loss-making airlines does not guarantee that both will improve” and wonders if it will lead to improved service at Iberia or worse service at BA.

Meanwhile, FT Alphaville breaks down the key terms of the memorandum of understanding.

Noted: 1 in 3 on acquisition trail, E&Y says

ey-capital-matters-graphA large Ernst & Young (E&Y) survey finds plenty of appetite for acquisitions, but also finds many companies feel constrained in their dealmaking, and one in 25 is simply “focused on survival”:

“Most companies believe the time is ripe for deals, but only one third have the strength and agility to snap up “once-in-a-lifetime” acquisition opportunities in the wake of the credit crisis, according to a global survey.

Ernst & Young, which quizzed 490 top executives from “major industry players” across 32 countries, said 33 percent were likely or highly likely to buy firms in the next 12 months, with 25 percent expecting to bid in the next six months. There were no data on the size of possible targets.”

DealZone Daily

A couple of nuggets from transport-land. Britain’s National Express unveils a 360 million pound rights issue and buyout giant TPG emerges as a potential investor alongside American Airlines in Japan Airlines.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And in the papers:

* Fubon Financial, parent of Taiwan’s No.2 insurer, and China’s State Development & Investment Corp will set up a 3 billion Chinese yuan ($440 million) private equity fund, the Commercial Times reported, citing a Fubon executive. Reuters story here.

* Indian software services firm Patni Computer Systems (PTNI.BO) has shortlisted four firms for a multi-million dollar acquisition, the Mint newspaper reported, quoting Chief Executive Officer Jeya Kumar.

Noted: JPM and “Merger Mondays” to come

Richard Bove at Rochdale says JPMorgan is in pole position to benefit from a surge in dealmaking:

“A core theme in our banking thesis is that “Merger Monday” is back.

“There could be a surge in merger and acquisition (M&A) activity that may last two to three years. The dollar is weakening, the yield on junk bonds has plummeted, and the stock market is quite strong. The money is available. No company is better positioned to take advantage of this development than J.P. Morgan.”

Bove says JPM has tens of thousands of middle-market clients as well as long-standing relationships with the biggest U.S. companies, such as Mars and Black and Decker.

DealZone Daily

Chocolate and macaroni cheese aside, a trio of tech deals to mull over:

* Google Inc will buy AdMob, one of the largest mobile advertising networks, for $750 million, widening its bet that cell phone advertising could become the Internet’s next-big money maker.

* Electronic Arts Inc acquires Playfish for $275 million as the maker of the “Madden NFL” series expands in the growing social gaming sector.

* And Cisco Systems Inc says shareholders holding just 9.37 percent of shares in Tandberg have accepted its $3 billion tender offer for the Norwegian videoconferencing company.

The derision thing

Derisory (di-ry-ser-i) adj. deserving derision; too insignificant for serious consideration.

In lambasting a formal takeover offer from Kraft as “derisory”, Cadbury Chairman Roger Carr has both ratcheted up the rhetoric (an earlier letter to Kraft did not use this term) and struck a tone familiar to connoisseurs of bid battles. Carr, of course, is a veteran dealmaker himself.

UK targets have often found rejecting an approach as “derisory” is just scornful enough, without incurring the wrath of the Takeover Panel. Other approaches to have met with the same brushoff include Macquarie’s 2005 hostile bid for the London Stock Exchange and BHP Billiton’s epic tilt at rival miner Rio Tinto.  Over in Ireland, Aer Lingus has decried the advances of budget archrival Ryanair in exactly the same manner.

DealZone Daily

In Monday’s DealZone Daily: French insurer AXA sets its sights on Asian growth. Meanwhile, General Electric Co. and Comcast Corp agree on a valuation of around $30 billion for a joint venture between NBC Universal and Comcast, ironing out what has been a key obstacle in talks so far, a source familiar with the matter says.

For more on these stories, and the rest of the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And in the newspapers:

* Indian energy giant Reliance Industries (RELI.BO) is close to a nearly $6 billion overseas acquisition and the likely target is the assets of petrochemicals firm LyondellBasell, the Economic Times reported, citing an unidentified banker.

Keeping score: EMEA mid-market M&A halves


Highlights from Thomson Reuters data on mid-market (sub-$500 milion) deals. For October in European, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA):

· Average bid premium four weeks prior to announcement increased on average across sectors in EMEA year to date compared to same period in 2008 by 2% with bid premia rising slightly with half the sector showing an increase and half decreasing.

· Year on year Average Rank Value to EBITDA however decreased by 16% on average with only the Real Estate and Materials sectors increasing.

Keeping score: Buffett, buyouts, Japanese M&A

Highlights from this week’s Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard:

Berkshire Hathaway’s $35.9 billion bid for the remaining share capital of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, ranked as the fourth biggest M&A deal this year in the United States and the largest acquisition for Berkshire Hathaway on record.
Since 1980, Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries have announced nearly 200 acquisitions, with 43% of those deals in the industrials sector, 34% in the financials sector and 12% in energy & power.   Just over 90% of the acquisitions announced by Berkshire Hathaway have been based in the United States.

IMS Health agreed to be acquired by TPG and the investment board of the Canada Pension Plan for $5.2 billion, marking the largest leveraged buyout in the United States since the $27 billion buyout of Hilton Hotels in July 2007.
Eight investment banks provided financial advisory services to IMS and the private equity consortium, including Evercore Partners which currently ranks fourth for year-to-date M&A in the United States, up from 16th last year at this time.

This week’s $11.3 billion merger of Nippon Oil Corp and Nippon Mining Holdings Inc brings the volume of Japanese target M&A to $90.1 billion for year-to-date 2009, a 41% increase over 2008 levels and one of the few regions to see year-over-year M&A growth.
Merger activity in the Japanese financial sector accounts for 38% of year-to-date activity, followed by high technology and real estate with 17.1% and 13.3% respectively.  Energy & power mergers account for 13.0% of announced volume this year, nearly three times last year’s total.

Noted: Deutsche sees M&A “wave”

Like UBS and Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank’s researchers are now forecasting a resurgence in M&A and say investors should “prepare to ride the wave”.

They concede that “picking actual as opposed to potential M&A targets is a notoriously difficult exercise” but have come up with 30 potential European targets, based on strategic and financial criteria. While bank lending remains a problem, they say that is not always an insurmountable hurdle, and should spur more stock-based deals (see graph below).

In a note dated Nov. 4, the DB team writes:

“Following two years of below-normal levels of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in Europe, we believe the conditions are in place for deals to return to the fore as a major driver of returns: Public markets are well and truly open for financing, low organic growth should spur expansion by acquisition, rising equity markets and sub-peak valuations make stock an attractive acquisition currency, and confidence is returning to boardrooms and executive offices.”