DealZone Daily

Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, Britain’s two largest retail lenders, have ageed to sell hundreds of branches and key businesses to appease EU concerns over state aid and competition.

For more on these stories, and all the rest of the latest deal-related news from Reuters, click here.

And here’s some picks from the papers:

* French investment company Wendel (MWDP.PA) has started looking for “modest” acquisitions, its new chief executive Frederic Lemoine tells the Financial Times.

* Russian-born tycoon Len Blavatnik has bought British cinema distribution business Icon Group, which owns rights to around 500 films including the Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves, Russian business daily Vedomosti says.

* Over at the New York Times’s DealBook blog, the site’s “Deal Professor” searches for themes in the M&A market, scrutinising the nine big deals announced in October.

Irene prepares to tough it out

It looks like Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld is getting ready to play hardball with her reluctant target, British chocolate maker Cadbury.

Cadbury investor Mario Gabelli will be disappointed in the short term – he wanted a small kiss from Irene after all - but a formal offer from the North American food group sets in motion an 88-day process under UK takeover rules.

That should give Kraft plenty of time to sweeten its offer to something starting with an eight – the 800p per share bar regarded by many as the minimum price needed to tempt Cadbury to the negotiating table.

Nomura targets cross-border, Asia focused M&A

In these times of banking bailouts and gloomy results, it’s refreshing to read about a firm that is bucking the trend. Nomura Holdings Inc unveiled its biggest profit in nine quarters on Wednesday, suggesting that its push into overseas bond and equity markets is paying off.

But as Sadeq Sayeed, chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told reporters on a conference call, it doesn’t take much to get clients to transact with an investment bank. “They will trade with you if you provide them with systems, prices, liquidity and clear and careful settlements,” he said.

Nomura’s mergers and acquisitions business is expected to take longer to mature. “The fact that we are even in the top 12 (for European M&A) is quite remarkable given that we were essentially a start up in the investment banking world as of January this year,” Sayeed added. 

Keeping score: Airports and sovereign debt

PlaneHere are this week highlights from the Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard:

On Oct. 21, Global Infrastructure Partners of the US, a joint venture between Credit Suisse Group and GE Infrastructure agreed to acquire London Gatwick Airport, from BAA, for $2.4 billion in cash, in a leveraged buyout transaction.

This is sixth largest infrastructure acquisition of a UK company ever and the largest UK private equity acquisition year-to-date.

DealZone Daily

Talk continues to swirl around Kraft’s potential bid for Cadbury. On Thursday Reuters reported a top shareholder in the British confectioner would accept 820 pence a share — well above Kraft’s first cash and shares offer but only a little higher than where the stock has been trading in recent days.

Activist investor Nelson Peltz, who has stakes in both Cadbury and Kraft, may now become a factor, a report says. A contractual obligation not to criticise Kraft’s management comes to an end on Friday. Will fireworks ensue when the gag is removed?

Other deal-related news in Friday’s papers include:

* BP Plc (BP.L) has had talks with Ghana’s national oil company about a possible joint bid for Kosmos Energy’s stake in the huge Jubilee oilfield off the coast of the country, Bloomberg said, citing two people familiar with the matter.

DealZone Daily

Insurance companies are the focus of many deals pages on Thursday, with Prudential eyeing a listing in Asia, AXA moving to sell a stake in China’s Taikang and Aviva detailing its restructuring now the Delta Lloyd IPO is moving.

Other deal news today includes:

* South Korea’s Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) has agreed to buy Canada’s Harvest Energy Trust for C$1.8 billion, the Canadian company said.

* Brazilian telecoms company GVT hired the local investment banking units of Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to help it respond to takeover attempts by two global rivals.

Keeping score: Withdrawn M&A and private equity buyouts

Highlights from the Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard:

Corporate M&A loses out …

Xstrata abandoned its $42.5 billon merger with Anglo American on Oct. 15, making it the largest withdrawn transaction this year. Withdrawn M&A has reached $205 billon so far in 2009.

The banks advising both parties would have earned an estimated $150.7 millon if the transaction had gone through. Deutsche, Lazard and UBS each lose a place in the global M&A rankings, falling to sixth, eighth and ninth, respectively, due to the failure. In Europe, Goldman Sachs loses the top spot, falling to third, while Normura drops out of the top 25 from 12th spot.

Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse take first and second position in the year to date European rankings.

DealZone Daily

A consortium led by Spain’s Cosmen family has decided against making a takeover offer for National Express after spending a month poring over the British bus and train operator’s books, Reuters reported on Friday.

In other news:

Stricken Dutch bank DSB failed to reach a deal with major Dutch banks in late night talks on Thursday aimed at finding an option for DSB’s survival, Dutch media reported.

China Merchants Bank, which is raising 22 billion yuan ($3.22 billion) through a rights issue, won’t unveil new fund raising plans over the next three years, the China Securities Journal reported on Friday, citing president Ma Weihua.

DealZone Daily

Mining group Xstrata did not support hopes of a more general M&A rebound on Thursday, announcing it had no intention of offering for rival Anglo American and that it continued to assess a range of alternative growth options. Read the Reuters report here.

OCBC , the smallest of Singapore’s three local banks, has agreed to buy ING‘s private banking unit in Asia for $1.5 billion, a surprise outcome in a complex drawn-out auction.

CIT Group  is getting closer to finalizing the terms of a new loan that would give the commercial lender, trying to avoid bankruptcy, $3 billion to $6.5 billion, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

DealZone Daily

Cisco Systems plans to buy advanced wireless equipment maker Starent Networks Corp for $2.9 billion to boost its product offerings as phone carriers build out next generation networks, Reuters reports.

In other stories on Wednesday:

Royal Bank of Scotland Group is considering a government-backed plan to give up all 312 of its RBS-branded branches in England and Wales in a move to satisfy European authorities, the Financial Times says.

Las Vegas Sands, which is seeking to raise up to $2.5 billion by listing its Macau assets on the Hong Kong stock exchange, could launch the initial public offering by late November, the South China Morning Post reports.