DealZone

M & A wrap: A Buffett bailout for BofA

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will invest $5 billion in Bank of America, stepping in to shore up the company in the same way he helped prop up Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis.

Bank of America shares rose 20 percent in pre-market trading on the news. Shares for the largest U.S. bank by assets have lost roughly a third of their value in August, and half their value since the beginning of the year.

The news of Steve Jobs’s resignation had many of his peers weighing in on the Apple co-founder’s legacy. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Jobs is the “most successful CEO in the U.S. of the last 25 years,” while former eBay CEO Meg Whitman said his contributions are “unparalleled in the business world.”

Samsung Electronics Co reiterated on Thursday it is not interested in buying Hewlett-Packard Co’s PC business, shooting down persistent market talk the South Korean firm may snap up the unit to become the world’s top PC maker.

The deadline for initial bids in the auction for Hulu was extended until the end of the week to allow interested parties more time to examine the online video site’s financial information, according to people familiar with the situation. Yahoo, Google Inc, DirecTV and Amazon.com were among the parties preparing to submit an offer for the U.S. online company, the people said.

Deals wrap: The value of Groupon

An online coupon sent via email from Groupon is pictured on a laptop screen November 29, 2010 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser Groupon is likely to pick Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to lead a second-half initial public offering that could value the fast-growing daily deals site at $15 billion to $20 billion, according to a source.

Commodity trader Glencore’s planned $12 billion London listing has long been seen as the first step to merging with Xstrata, in what could be the biggest mining takeover in history. The question for most analysts and investors since the IPO was confirmed is not if the deal happens but when — and how.

BP’s partners in its Russian venture TNK-BP rejected the UK oil major’s offer to settle a dispute caused by its $18 billion tie-up with Rosneft, casting further doubt on the deal.

Deals wrap: Mixing it up at Morgan Stanley

A street sign stands near the Morgan Stanley worldwide headquarters building in New York May 8, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas JacksonMorgan Stanley’s surge in fourth-quarter profit indicates its strategy of diversifying its businesses to reduce a reliance on traditional investment banking operations may be paying off.

Wendy’s/Arby’s Group plans to sell its struggling Arby’s roast beef sandwich chain to focus on the Wendy’s hamburger business. The move comes at a time when other fast-food companies are trying to shed assets or even sell themselves.

The Carlyle Group’s back-to-back sell-downs worth $2.6 billion of China Pacific Insurance, put the U.S. buyout fund on course for its best exit ever.

The Great American IPO?

GMWe (the taxpayers)  paid some of the $50 billion to bail General Motors out of its bankruptcy misery last year.  Now, the former American industrial icon is going to launch one of the biggest U.S. IPOs  of the decade.

According to estimates by Independent International Investment Research, GM’s initial offering would raise $12 billion, higher than any U.S. IPO this year and exceeding all over the last ten years, except for Visa’s offering in 2008 and AT&T Wireless in 2000.

The Wall Street Journal said this morning that GM is close to picking JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley as lead underwriters for the IPO. The U.S. Treasury, which owns  a 61-percent stake in GM, said on Thursday that the timing would be decided by GM, based on market conditions.

The afternoon deal: Regulation overdrive

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo arrives at a news conference in New York, February 24, 2010.     REUTERS/Brendan McDermid It’s been a busy day on the regulatory front. The New York Attorney General’s office is investigating eight banks for possibly misleading ratings agencies on the quality of mortgage securities, a source says. The Fed is conducting a broad criminal investigation into whether major Wall Street financial firms misled investors on mortgage bond deals, another source says.

Adding to the mix:
–the Senate voted to impose tighter regulations on credit-rating agencies.
–Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is concerned about a Senate proposal that could force banks to spin off their swaps business
–the White House and two state attorneys general said they don’t like an amendment to the Wall Steet reform bill that would give the federal government more power than states to regulate banks

From the Web:

Goldman, BofA, Citigroup….Did Prosecutors Leave Anybody Out - WSJ
“It’s Thursday, and one thing is clear from this morning’s headlines: Pretty much all of Wall Street is under investigation.”

Reinventing Glass-Steagall

With Congress already debating a sweeping overhaul of financial regulation, perhaps the most enduring regulatory stricture of the Depression era is again getting an airing in Washington. The venerable Glass-Steagall laws that barred large banks from affiliating with securities firms and engaging in the insurance business were repealed in 1999. Now, as the banks try to move on from the dreaded salary caps and the humiliation of TARP, lawmakers are wondering whether getting rid of Glass-Steagall was such a good idea.

Financial giants such as Goldman Sachs could be broken up under two bills introduced in Congress on Wednesday, one with the backing of former Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Both would reinstate Glass-Steagall. Passage of the Cantwell-McCain bill would force firms at the center of last year’s financial crisis — such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — to spin off investment and insurance operations, according to Demos, a progressive think tank in New York. A similar measure was offered on Wednesday by six Democrats in the House of Representatives.

To be fair, many have wondered whether dumping Glass-Steagall was such a good idea. What’s odd is that the discussion about bringing it back comes as almost an afterthought to the massive regulatory reform bill now before Congress. Rather than start from scratch, it may have made more sense to try to reinstate laws that the marketplace was already familiar with, and add new bits around the edges.

Deals du Jour

TMT is heating up. Vodafone, the British mobile phone operator, is pondering a bid for T-Mobile UK, while Microsoft has hired Morgan Stanley to sell its digital agency Razorfish. Both stories are in the Financial Times. Private equity group Candover says it has ended talks with potential acquirers, confident it can meet debt covenants. For all Reuters Deals news, click here.

And here’s what other media are writing today.

* Anglo American (AAL.L) is building its defences against a 41 billion pound ($67.74 billion) merger approach from Xstrata (XTA.L) by plotting talks about a major Chinese investment, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

* Switzerland’s UBS (UBSN.VX) is to pay 3 to 5 billion Swiss francs ($2.77-$4.62 billion) in the next two weeks to settle a U.S. tax probe into the bank, Swiss newspaper Sonntag reported on Sunday.

Repaying TARP on a high

As several large banks rush to the market to raise capital, one question remains: What’s the correlation between their ability to raise equity now and their strength in the face of a deeper recession if the early signs of a possible recovery prove false?

This morning Morgan Stanley joined the bandwagon of banks raising capital to pay back TARP. The Wall Street bank said it intends to raise $2.2 billion in common equity to satisfy a supervisory condition to enable it to redeem TARP preferred capital. It follows JPMorgan Chase and American Express, which announced their plans Monday.

The offerings come after the Fed said Monday the government will announce next week which of the 19 stress tested banks will be allowed to repay the funds. One condition for repayment is that they are able to raise money in the public equity markets.

Post Traumatic Stress Test Order

A week ago, when the Fed and Treasury mesmerized the financial world with the results of “stress tests” and capital-raising targets for banks, nobody spent much time asking “what if they can’t raise the money?” There was a sense that authorities had washed away enough uncertainty in the sector to satisfy investors. In short order, healthier institutions started raising capital. Those that didn’t need any stepped up efforts to rid themselves of onerous state support.

Bank of America shares are on a tear after the bank raised nearly $13.5 billion through a stock sale. Along with money it raised by selling part of its stake in China Construction Bank, this put Bank of America about half way to filling its stress-test gap.

But when Regions Financial, a large U.S. Southeast regional bank that was stress-tested, announced plans this morning to raise $1.25 billion through stock offerings — also about half of what federal regulators told it to raise — investors balked, sending its stock down more than 8 percent.

Will UnTARPed Banks Boost M&A?

News that top investment banks want to pay back their TARP funds is welcome news for the M&A market. Though the tens of billions of dollars in capital that will slosh out of the banks and into government coffers may sap the banks of the funds to make big buys, the fact that most post-stress-test capital-raisings have gone smoothly must be encouraging for dealmakers.

Plus, banks that are unable to pull themselves from the government teat will have a whole lot less pricing power. It was interesting to see HSBC commenting on Tuesday that it expects industry consolidation in the second half of this year and in 2010. Though they may be looking more closely at non-U.S. assets, given the burns on their fingers from their foray into the U.S. mortgage market, that big global may sit out the next round of mergers. Will they be missing the boat, particularly given the conviction of many analysts that the U.S. economy will be the earliest to recover?

A key question that could rain on any M&A party is asset quality, and the radiation emitting from the toxic assets still poisoning the financial system. While most of it has been moved to the bomb shelter balance sheet of the U.S. taxpayer, there is little conviction that valuations will have the golden glow of yesteryear, and plenty of lingering fear that the glow is the toxicity of the lost decade.