Obama’s bank plan — good for M&A?

President Barack Obama’s plan to limit financial risk-taking could drive eager bankers, who had seen the juiciest business at the prop desks, to return to Mergers and Acquisitions — the former darling desk of Wall Street.

Picking a fight with the financial titans (that just last week sent their top executives to offer platitudes to Congress about the financial disaster they created), the administration unveiled a plan that would stop banks from playing with their own money to take risky positions – the so-called proprietary trading operations.

Way back when, these were small, cloistered parts of the business, shying away from attention and very much in the shadow of the mighty M&A side of the investment banking world.

Megan Davies reports that the move could force banks to shed parts of their private equity operations. Might that also provide another crop of bonus-hungry bankers for M&A?

Noted: Will European insurers hit M&A trail?

Analysts at UBS are predicting the European insurance industry could be at the start of a new wave of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as companies look to counter falling demand for insurance by taking over rivals to boost top-line growth and extract cost synergies.  Bank rescues have created a number of potential targets as well.

The team, led by Marc Thiele, says:

“We believe European large-cap insurers will look for M&A in Eastern Europe and Asia…In our opinion, this would be more attractive than acquiring cash-generative businesses in mature countries; while this tends to offer greater cost-savings potential, it also offers less premium growth.

“On top of the normal M&A considerations, there are a number of additional game-changing transactions possible following the decisions involving ING and RBS to exit the insurance business in agreement with the European Commission.

DealZone Daily

Tuesday’s highlights:

* U.S.-based Kraft Foods Inc and Britain’s Cadbury Plc are close to sealing a friendly deal to create the world’s largest confectionery group for up to 11.7 billion pounds ($19 billion), sources familiar with the matter say.

* Japan Airlines Corp’s board of directors decided on Tuesday to file for bankruptcy protection, Kyodo news agency says.  

* Industrial conglomerate Tyco International will acquire Broadview Security for $1.9 billion in a deal that brings together two large providers of residential and commercial security in North America, the two companies say.

DealZone Daily

Monday’s highlights:

London-based oil explorer Tullow Oil (TLW.L) exercises a right to buy Ugandan oil fields which its partner in the fields, Heritage Oil (HOIL.L), previously agreed to sell to Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI) for $1.5 billion.

Some of Cadbury’s (CBRY.L) biggest shareholders, led by Legal & General, continued to reject Kraft Foods’ 10.5 billion pound ($17.2 billion) bid and will look for an increased offer.

Brazil’s Camargo Correa Group reiterates its interest in cement maker Cimpor and says it is pondering its options after the Portuguese stock market regulator turned down its merger proposal.

DealZone Daily

Cadbury posts its final defence against Kraft’s hostile takeover, but a muted share price reaction shows it is not changing market views about the deal much.  Ferrero, the Italian chocolate maker, is “very close” to taking a decision on whether to launch a counterbid together with U.S. group Hershey, a source close to the operation tells Reuters. Italy’s Il Messagero reported earlier Ferrero was securing a $4.5 billion syndicated loan.

General Motors repeats it is closing down Saab, because it has not yet received a credible bid. Dutch group Spyker meanwhile, says it remains hopeful that a deal can be reached.

And in other media:

Ford remains open to talks with potential bidders for its Volvo cars unit, despite a commercial agreement on a sale with China’s Zhejiang Geely, Sweden’s Dagens Industri says.

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

Friday’s highlights from Reuters:

The energy, finance, technology and healthcare industries are expected to be the hottest areas in a dealmaking market that in 2010 is likely to expand gradually from this year’s depressed levels. M&A totals $1.968 trillion so far in 2009, down 32 percent from full-year 2008 and down 53 percent from the record high in 2007, according to data from Thomson Reuters

A dizzying recovery in financial markets this year has upended the usual pecking order for fee-making in investment banking and turned the bonuses flowing from those fees into political dynamite. The shape of the fee pool has really changed materially over recent years,” said Simon Warshaw, co-head of investment banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Swiss bank UBS, ranked fifth for global equity capital markets (ECM) issues and fees this year. Read the  story here.

And in news elsewhere:

The disposals Lloyds has agreed to as compensation for taking state aid were a “very fair deal” but it has no plans to sell the assets off soon, the banking group’s chief executive told the Financial Times.  Read the report here.

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.

DealZone Daily

British chocolate maker Cadbury (CBRY.L) ramps up its targets for sales and operating margins to show it’s worth more than Kraft’s (KFT.N) hostile $16.5 billion offer. It says it has seen interest from other bidders, but doesn’t mention them . Stock markets are unimpressed — Cadbury shares are up only 0.7 percent.

In the wrangling over Saab, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (0r BAIC) has said it has acquired some of the assets of the General Motors unit.

French insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) and Australia’s AMP Ltd (AMP.AX)  have raised their takeover offer for AXA Asia Pacific Holdings to $11.7 billion — a 16 percent rise. The two are keen to get their hands on different parts of the business. The French insurer is already the biggest shareholder in AXA Asia Pacific Holdings, and also its parent company.

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.