Deals wrap: Novell deal a Microsoft maneuver?

MICROSOFT/Attachmate, a privately held provider of technology services, said it’s buying software provider Novell in a $2.2 billion deal. The deal marks the end of a drawn-out auction process the Novell board began back in March after rejecting an unsolicited proposal from Elliott Associates.

A chunk of the deal’s value also includes the concurrent sale of some Novell intellectual property assets for $450 million to a consortium led by Microsoft. Novell and Microsoft have crossed each others’ paths before when they struck a copyright deal over certain Novell assets in 2006. One theory is that this could be Microsoft’s way of maintaining control over the details of that agreement and out of the hands of rivals.

Bailed-out insurer AIG is still shopping around some of its larger assets, restarting its earlier campaign to sell its Taiwan unit Nan Shan Life.  A source close to the process told Reuters on Monday that first-round bids for the unit are likely in early December, shortly after due diligence ends. In August, Taiwan regulators rejected AIG’s plan to sell the unit for $2.15 billion to a Hong Kong-based buyer group. The insurance giant is still struggling to repay its bailout debts to the U.S. government.

A day earlier, oil and gas exploration company Energy XXI agreed to buy nine Exxon Mobil oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico for $1.01 billion, an acquisition that will boost the company’s reserves and production by more than 70 percent.

Federal authorities are on the cusp of filing a raft of insider trading cases against the likes of  hedge fund traders, consultants and Wall Street bankers that could be among the biggest ever, several lawyers familiar with the matter told Reuters. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the FBI has raided two hedge funds in connection with the probe. The Journal, which first broke news of the three-year investigation, also has a piece on what tactics the FBI likely used in building its case.

Elliot’s Novell buyout approach to making money

When activist hedge fund Elliott Associates made its unsolicited offer for business software maker Novell public on Tuesday, the thinking among analysts and reporters was that Elliott didn’t t really intend to buy the company, but rather force it into running a sale process and eventually finding a bigger tech company — like an HP or a Microsoft — to buy it. That may well be how it plays out, but Elliott spokesman Scott Tagliarino said that the firm is dead serious about its offer.

In fact, Elliott is no stranger to this type of deal, having made similar offers to a handful of small tech companies in the past. Typically, it owns large stakes in the companies it goes after. Last year, it was part of a private equity team that acquired MSC Software for about $360 million.

Elliott also offered to buy Packeteer, another small Nasdaq-listed tech company it owned a large stake in, but it was eventually acquired by Blue Coat Systems in 2008. Another company Elliott went after was Epicor Software, but that bid was unsuccessful.