DealZone

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

The world’s second largest confectionery group Cadbury has rejected a $16.7 billion bid approach by Kraft Food. But North America’s top food group still hopes it can clinch a deal to create a global powerhouse in snacks and quick meals.

For more from Reuters on the latest deals, click here.

Below is a round-up of all the market chatter from the press on Monday:

* South Korea’s No. 4 lender Hana Bank will buy a 18.44 percent stake in the Bank of Jilin in northern China for $316 million, said Yonhap news, citing an unnamed Hana Bank official.

* Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s carmaker, GAZ, the Russian industrial partner in a Magna-led bid for Germany’s Opel, is not interested in an equity stake in Opel, Deripaska told Vedomosti newspaper.

from Commentaries:

Green shoots or just talk in fertiliser M&A

CHINA/There are signs of life returning to M&A in the potash sector -- with market speculation that Potash Corp of Saskatchewan may bid for Germany's K+S.

Canada's Potash Corp -- the world's largest producer of the key ingredient in synthetic crop fertiliser -- said last month that North American potash inventories had fallen in July, an indication that sales of potash had begun to move again after a seizing up of the market.

Some analysts reckon that the market is now reaching a bottom and that there will be a sharp rebound in 2010 as farmers start buying again.

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):

What green shoots?

European bankers may be having more conversations that could lead to M&A than six months ago, but this week’s deal figures from Thomson Reuters still make dismal reading.

So far this year, European M&A has been worth $356.6 billion, a 51% fall compared to last year at this time. Excluding government investments, merger activity in Europe totals $239.1 billion, a 67 percent decrease from 2008 levels.

Here is another of this week’s data points:

“Germany’s E.on has agreed to sell its natural gas distribution subsidiary, Thuega AG, to a group of German utility companies for $4.1 billion, topping the list of worldwide mergers this week. Goldman Sachs, which advised Thuega, and @visory Partners GmbH, which advised the consortium, could share an estimated $30 million to $35 million in advisory fees on completion of the deal.

Deals du Jour

Buyout firm Resolution raises its offer for UK insurer Friends Provident to about 2 billion pounds, and the two sides start talks about a possible deal.

The following are M&A related stories reported by Reuters and other media:

Lloyds Banking Group may consider a multi-billion pound share issue as part of a partial withdrawal from the government’s asset protection scheme, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

U.S. power producer Dynegy will sell nine U.S. power plants to its one-time development partner LS Power Associates, the Wall Street Journal says.

Deals du Jour

An unusual Credit Suisse Group compensation plan could lead to hefty year-end payouts for bankers, The Wall Street Journal said. The newspaper said that the bank told 2,000 top bankers that a $5 billion fund of toxic mortgages and bonds, which it granted as a big portion of 2008 pay, has returned 17 percent since January, citing people familiar with the matter.

The following M&A related stories were reported by media on Friday:

French advertising group Publicis  is poised to buy U.S. digital specialist Razorfish from Microsoft Corp, Les Echos reported in its Friday edition.

Citigroup Inc may give control of its Phibro commodities business to Andrew Hall, the energy trader making headlines for demanding a $100 million payday under his contract, The New York Times said, citing a person with knowledge of the negotiations.

Deals du Jour

Wall Street banks and lawyers could collect nearly $1 billion in fees from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and American International Group to help manage and break apart the insurer, the Wall Street Journal said, citing its own analysis.

The following M&A related stories were reported by Reuters and other media on Thursday:

Jewelry retailer Finlay Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 protection and said it would sell its assets in an auction supervised by the bankruptcy court. The company listed assets and debt in the range of $500 million to $1 billion in its filing, Reuters reported.

Deals du Jour

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd will likely clinch a deal this week to buy some Asian assets from British lender Royal Bank of Scotland Group for about $775 million, a source briefed on the situation told Reuters, marking it the Australian bank’s biggest overseas purchase.

In other M&A related stories reported by other media on Monday:

British-based, US-listed cable operator Virgin Media is considering a secondary listing of its shares in London to attract UK-based investors, according to a report in the Times newspaper. Virgin will make an announcement about its decision at its second-quarter results this month, the report said.

The biggest private equity groups are sitting on $400 billion of debt that needs to be repaid over the next five years, putting the future of some of the largest buyouts in doubt, the Financial Times said, citing data from S&P LCD.

Keeping score: big-ticket M&A drought, bond bonanza

Highlights and low points — syndicated loans, for example, at their lowest since 1993 — from the July Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Snapshots:

DEBT CAPITAL MARKETS

Asia Pacific & Chinese Issuers Reached New Corporate Bonds High in July – Asia Pacific issuers raised a record US$41bn in July, up 11% from June 2009 (US$43.3bn) and double the level of July 2008 (US$24.1bn). Chinese issuers accounted for 49% of the regions’ activity with a record US$23.4bn raised, up 3% from June 2009 (US$22.7bn) and up 218% from July 2008 (7.4bn). Financials (US$16.2bn, 70%) and Materials (US$4.7bn, 20%) were the main sectors driving the surge in China.

European High Yield Bonds Hit 2 Year High – Global issuance of high yield bonds reached US$12.3bn in July 2009, down 27% from June 2009 (US$16.7bn) but up 270% from July 2008 (US$3.3bn). This marked the third highest level of activity for a month of July on record and the best since 2003 (US$18.6bn). European issuers accounted for 44% of total with US$5.4bn raised, the highest monthly volume since June 2007. European activity consisted of two issues, Wind Acquisition Finance (US$3.7bn), the second largest HY bond of the year globally and the second largest European bond ever issued after NXP Semiconductor (US$5.95bn, 2006) and Fiat Finance & Trade ($US$1.8bn).