Road to fortune or highway to hell?

GM-OPEL/That will ultimately be the question asked about what kind of a future the German carmaker Opel faces.

Parent General Motors said on Thursday that it indeed wanted
to sell a majority stake in the unit to Canadian auto parts
group Magna and Russia’s Sberbank, a decision long favoured by the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

With about two weeks to go until a general election in
Europe’s biggest economy, this would clearly be a political
victory — but the question remains whether it will also be an
economic one.

Merkel said that GM’s recommendation — which would see
Magna’s Brussels-listed rival bidder RHJ International losing
out in the battle that has dragged on for months — is going to
be tied to conditions.

Although she said that those conditions would be manageable and
negotiable, doubts remain about whether this will be the new
beginning the company is hoping for.

Deals du Jour

Deals abound. This morning, Vivendi launches a bid for GVT, a Brazilian telecom operator. The deal will be worth some 2 billion euros if completed. And overnight, it became clear who are the bidders for the 46 percent-stake in Kuwaiti telecom operator Zain. A consortium of Indian telecom companies will pay some $13.7 billion for the holding, together with a Malaysian investor. For other Reuters stories on deals, click here.

And here are some deal-related stories in other media.

* China Vanadium Titano Magnetite Mining and sportswear retailer Peak Sport Products aim to launch initial public offerings in the next few weeks, a Hong Kong newspaper reported.

* China’s Yantai Wanhua Polyurethane Co (600309.SS) is seeking to buy a stake in privately owned Hungarian chemicals firm BorsodChem as a long-term strategic investor, business daily Napi Gazdasag says.

Keeping score: US leads M&A, Securitizations, National Express

An Iraqi worker adjusts an oil pipe at Nahr Al-Umran gas refinery in Al-Dier District, northern Basra July 17, 2009. REUTERS/Atef HassanHere are the highlights from this week’s Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard:

- US M&A Accounts for the Majority of Weekly Worldwide Activity

US M&A activity was worth $13.9 billion for the week, bolstered by a flurry of deal announcements ahead of Labor Day in oil and gas, media and pharmaceuticals.  Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch each advised on just over $9 billion in deals this week.


- Government Program Lifts Weekly US ABS Volume to $16.4 billion

The weekly volume of US asset-backed securities totaled $16.4 billion, powered by $14.2 billion of offerings eligible for Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF).  Multi-billion dollar securitizations from the likes of Citigroup, Bank of America and Ford brought year-to-date ABS volume to $110.5 billion, a 28% decrease from last year at this time when issuance totaled $154.1 billion.

Deals du Jour

A Qualicaps employee handles pills during a demonstration of the company's Visual Inspection Machine, which examines tablets for cracks and defects, at the 21st Interphex Japan pharmaceutical exhibition in Tokyo July 2, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Caronna (JAPAN)Japanese firm Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co Ltd (4506.T) agrees a $2.7 billion to buy Sepracor Inc (SEPR.O). Dainippon will acquire a 1,000-strong sales force and drugs to treat insomnia and epilepsy from U.S.-based Sepracor.

Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO.N) has agreed a 330 million euro purchase of German firm Brahms, a manufacturer of disease diagnosis tests. Thermo Fisher, which makes scientific instruments, said the deal would open up promising opportunities for commercialising new patents.

For more on this and the latest Reuters deals news, click here.

And here’s a round-up of deal-related stories from Thursday’s press:

Spark needed

Could the sale of Britain’s biggest electricity distribution network help re-energise infrastructure dealmaking?

The supposedly steady business of buying and running roads, ports, and power grids has had a torrid time. The credit crunch has undermined some big infrastructure players, made it tricky to finance deals, and revealed that demand for some services — like toll roads and airports — is flakier than expected. Asset sales have run aground, instead of commanding the big premiums they would have fetched in the frantic debt-fuelled auctions of yore.

Nonetheless, optimists say the world’s long-term infrastructure needs are enormous. They are also cheered by the record $100 billion or so of funds that Preqin says are currently being raised (albeit slowly). And there may be some chinks of light on the M&A front. As Greg Roumeliotis and I wrote earlier:

U.S. M&A hits 15 year low

This year’s annual August doldrums was one for the record books.

U.S. M&A for the month totalled $13 billion, its lowest since February 1994, while global M&A stood at $72 billion, the lowest since February 2003, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

The largest U.S. deal was Warner Chilcott’s $3.1 billion purchase of Procter & Gamble’s prescription drug business.

Year-to-date, however, European M&A has suffered even more, with total deal value halving to $378.4 billion. U.S. mergers, at $441.5 billion, have fallen 40 percent from a year ago. Fees for completed in August sank to $694 million, the lowest since records started in 1998, according to Thomson Reuters.

Deals du jour

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross says he plans to invest further in banks, but new capital requirements for private equity investment in the sector are still too tight. Meanwhile, a senior German government official says Opel has the liquidity to operate until next year, as a rift appears to develop in the ruling party over whether the General Motors Co unit should be sold to Canada’s Magna International (MGa.TO).

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

Here’s what else we found in the papers (some external links may require subscriptions):

Deals du jour

U.S. banking regulators partially retreat from a much-criticized proposal to impose new rules on private equity investment in troubled banks, aiming to encourage responsible investment in distressed banks. And General Electric Co (GE.N) puts its security business up for sale in an auction that could fetch about $2 billion.

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

Elsewhere, there’s lots of buzz this morning about comments from Adair Turner, of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, on how much of what the City does is “socially useless” and how so-called Tobin taxes on transactions may be considered — prompting big pieces in the Guardian and the FT.

Deals du jour

The Obama administration pledges to stay out of General Motors’ choice of a buyer for its European Opel unit, while union leaders in Germany put more pressure on the U.S. automaker to make a decision. Meanwhile, Lowe’s Companies Inc (LOW.N), the No. 2 U.S. home improvement chain, is making its first foray outside North America through a joint venture with Woolworths Ltd (WOW.AX), Australia’s largest retailer.

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

And here’s what’s in the papers (some external links may require subscriptions):

Deals du jour

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says General Motors “urgently” needs to decide on Opel’s future, while specialty drugmaker Warner Chilcott moves to acquire Procter & Gamble’s $3 billion prescription-drug business.

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

And here’s what caught our eye in the newspapers (some external links may require subscriptions):