DealZone

Nokia’s Symbianic relationship

nokia.jpgFresh from having Yahoo slip through its fingers, Microsoft‘s plan to leapfrog into Consumerville takes another hit with news that Nokia is paying 264 million euros ($410 million) to buy out other shareholders of Symbian, the dominant player in smartphone software. Nokia says it will dissolve royalty payments for the platform, making it more attractive when compared to Google‘s rival free platform, Android. Symbian’s operating systemis already used in two-thirds of smartphones; Nokia makes 40 percent of all phones sold globally. “This puts a lot of pressure on Microsoft right at a time when they are trying to really push into the consumer space,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. “For operators this offers a good alternative to Android.”

British gas producer BG Group launched a hostile $13.1 billion bid for Australia’s Origin Energy, as it seeks to boost its position in Asia-Pacific’s fast-growing gas market. BG is taking its A$13.8 billion all-cash bid, valuing Origin at A$15.50 a share, direct to shareholders after Origin’s board rejected it last month. Origin claimed then that its coal seam gas reserves alone were worth over $15 billion. Shares in Origin, which have surged over 85 percent this year, rose 6.2 percent to a record A$16.48 before closing up 5.8 percent at A$16.42, indicating investors expect an even higher offer. If successful, the deal would be the second-largest foreign takeover of an Australian company after Cemex, North America’s largest cement producer, bought Rinker Group last year for $14.2 billion.

Russian oil major Lukoil bought a 49 percent stake in Italian refiner ERG SpA‘s Mediterranean plant for 1.35 billion euros ($2.1 billion), in a sign of the growing energy ties between Russia and Italy. Lukoil and ERG, Italy’s second-biggest refiner by market share, agreed a joint venture valued at 2.75 billion euros to control ERG’s Isab di Priolo refinery on Sicily. ERG will have 51 percent of the new company.

Other deals of the day:

* UBS said it had acquired Dutch wealth manager VermogensGroep.

* French aero engine and telecoms maker Safran said it had bought Dutch-based passport and secure ID document maker Sdu-Identifaction.

* Shares in China Oilfield Services, an arm of the CNOOC, jumped more than 3 percent as speculation grew about a potential takeover of Norwegian offshore driller Awilco Offshore.

Just enough for the Citi

citigroup.jpgCitigroup‘s $3 billion $4.5 billion stock offering didn’t exactly dazzle one of its most well-known critics, as Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney said the company will need to raise an additional $10 billion to $15 billion or sell assets worth billions to truly shore up its capital position. “The fact that Citi raised capital at this time did not come as a surprise to us, but the fact that the company raised such a small amount of capital at this time confounds us,” said Whitney, who correctly predicted last year that the company would have to cut its dividend.

Time Warner is kissing its majority-owned cable division goodbye, part of CEO Jeffrey Bewkes’s attempt to revamp the company and lift its sluggish stock price. Details on how the transaction will be structured were scarce, but analysts have speculated that the separately listed unit could be spun off to shareholders.

UK gas producer BG Group has made a $12 billion bid approach to Origin Energy, seeking to bolster its position in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific gas market by securing the Australian utility’s gas reserves. The companies said BG, valued at around $85 billion, had approached Origin with a proposal of A$14.70 per share in cash — a 40 percent premium to Origin’s close of A$10.47 on Tuesday.