DealZone

DealZone Daily

Italy’s Ferrero has ruled out a rival bid for Cadbury Plc, clearing the way for Kraft Foods to complete its 11.7 billion-pound ($18.9 billion) proposed takeover of the British confectioner. Fellow chocolate maker Hershey has already said it has no intention of bidding for Cadbury, so with Nestle already ruled out, Kraft appears on course to complete its recommended bid by the deadline of February 2.

US investment group Blackstone is examining the possibility of entering the UK banking market, its chief executive Stephen Schwarzman said on the sideleines of a conference in Saudi Arabia, confirming earlier reports by Reuters and other media. He said that opening a bank in the UK would not represent a major change in strategy for Blackstone.

And from other media:

CPA Global, the patent and legal services group, is set to complete on Thursday a management buyout financed by Intermediate Capital Group, the Financial Times reported.

Saab Automobile is set to win a stay of execution from General Motors as the US carmaker closes in on a deal to sell its Swedish unit to Spyker Cars of the Netherlands, the Financial Times reported. Several people close to the negotiations told the newspaper a provisional agreement could come as soon as today.

DealZone Daily

Tuesday’s highlights:

* U.S.-based Kraft Foods Inc and Britain’s Cadbury Plc are close to sealing a friendly deal to create the world’s largest confectionery group for up to 11.7 billion pounds ($19 billion), sources familiar with the matter say.

* Japan Airlines Corp’s board of directors decided on Tuesday to file for bankruptcy protection, Kyodo news agency says.  

* Industrial conglomerate Tyco International will acquire Broadview Security for $1.9 billion in a deal that brings together two large providers of residential and commercial security in North America, the two companies say.

Cadbury kisses off Hershey

Whatever his motives, Warren Buffett’s influence can be seen in Cadbury’s share price, which have dipped below the level of Kraft’s $17 billion bid for the first time. The sagging share price shows, among other things, that the market believes Kraft is more likely to make its 50.1 percent acceptance rate without having to aggressively raise its bid.

Analysts still see Kraft having to sweeten the deal, but not as much as they had previously suggested. Also weighing on Cadbury’s stock is the cold water splashing over prospects for a rival bid from Hershey. Cadbury said it was not looking for a white knight bidder and analysts are not convinced Hershey can finance a takeover.

Hershey may not be able to pull off a deal on its own as a white knight, but that doesn’t completely rule out it taking a significant stake in Cadbury. If other big strategic investors were so inclined, and could perhaps tempt some interest from private equity, they could well put together a bloc to scuttle Kraft’s efforts. It might not even take much effort, given the loud, angry way Buffett – Kraft’s biggest share holder — slammed the door on raising the bid.

DealZone Daily

Thursday’s highlights:

National Australia Bank made a surprise trump bid for AXA Asia Pacific Holdings’ Australian and New Zealand units on Thursday, in a cash deal that would value all of the target firm at around $12 billion.  The bid tops an offer from Australian life insurer AMP Ltd, which had faced resistance from AXA Asia Pacific’s independent directors who were looking for a higher offer.

Private equity firm Apollo Management said it had agreed to buy Ohio theme-park company Cedar fair for $635 million. The total deal is valued at $2.4 billion including the refinancing of the firm’s outstanding debt.

And in news elsewhere:

Bailed out U.S. insurer American International Group plans to file a prospectus for a multi-billion dollar IPO of its Asian life insurance unit before Christmas, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.  The Hong Kong IPO of American International Assurance is expected to raise $10 billion to $20 billion, the paper said.

DealZone Daily

Friday’s highlights:

Bonus watch: Goldman Sachs Group Inc plans to pay top managers their 2009 bonuses in stock, rather than cash, as it seeks to deflect outrage over a near-record pay haul months after it repaid billions of dollars in taxpayer aid.

UK fund manager Gartmore has lowered price guidance on its initial public offer (IPO) and restructured the deal after investors balked at the valuation, a banking source close to the sale says.

Swedish private equity firm EQT says it, together with the Singapore government, will buy scientific journal publisher Springer Science and Business Media for an undisclosed sum. EQT’s purchase of Springer, from rivals Candover and Cinven, was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday. (See some of the articles Springer has published by Nobel Prize winners here.)

DealZone Daily

Monday’s big deal stories:

Dubai moves to ring-fence prized assets from the $26 billion debt restructuring of Dubai World, denting already fragile investor sentiment ahead of talks between the struggling conglomerate and key creditors.

British confectioner Cadbury (CBRY.L) gives itself a week to post a formal response to Kraft’s (KFT.N) $16 billion takeover offer.

British waste management firm Shanks Group Plc reveals a 536 million pound ($889 million) buyout approach, sending its shares soaring, but says its board and key shareholders were looking for at least 10 percent more.

DealZone Daily

Auto maker General Motors is grappling with the future of its European units Saab and Opel after one sale collapsed and the other was pulled, targeting the bulk of its 9,000 job cuts at Opel’s German factories.

Bookseller Borders UK called in the administrators yesterday, adding its name to a growing list of failed British high street retailers. Administrator MCR is hoping to sell the business, bought by Valco (the private equity arm of turnaround specialist Hilco) in July this year, as a going concern.

Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, sold some $27.6 million of his shares in his father’s company as he bought 50 percent of Daily Mail & General Trust’s radio operations in Australia.

DealZone Daily

British publisher Informa is in talks to buy its German rival Springer Science and Business Media from private equity firms Candover and Cinven, the FT says.

Informa initiated talks with Springer three weeks ago and is considering an all cash bid, according to its story, but private equity firms including Apax and EQT are still looking at the business.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

And here are the top stories from the newspapers (some external links may require subscription):

Can American Capital find a rich suitor?

More consolidation may be coming to the world of private equity lenders. Debt-laden Allied Capital solved its long-standing problems last week when it sold itself to Ares Capital. Rival American Capital, once an S&P 500 component but now struggling for survival, could be the next takeover target.

But some investors wonder if Allied got a raw deal. Ares paid $3.47 a share in stock for a company that had a book value of $7.49 in June. One law firm has already launched a “shareholder investigation“. Similarly, American Capital’s shares trade below $3, compared with a book value of $8.76 at the end of June.

Ares Capital is one of the rare healthy players in the field. It has a strong balance sheet and minimal liquidity concerns, and it has managed to pay a dividend throughout the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression. For an Allied shareholder used to a continuous flow of bad news, swapping that stake for an investment in a healthy company must seem like a good move.

Carlyle woos women to male-dominated buyout world

JAPAN-ECONOMY/Carlyle –at one time famous for having former presidents and prime ministers on its payroll– is taking a step to attract more women and minorities into the male-dominated world of private equity.

“I’d say that private equity firms have been behind investment banks and law firms (in such hiring),” David Rubenstein, co-founder of Carlyle told Reuters.

“The industry… probably has fewer women partners and probably fewer minority partners than we probably should have.”