Game, Google

google.jpgWith Google looking like the big winner after doing an ad search deal with Yahoo, pretty much everyone else involved is looking like a loser. Microsoft will have to take its mammoth war chest and try to find another way to make a meaningful stab at the coveted online ad space — or concede the market altogether. Though Yahoo is waving enhanced revenue and cash flow figures around, the deal is seen as better for Google, which is the undisputed heavyweight champion in ad search and just gets a juicy space to show how mighty it is. “Google has made an enormous gain strategically. This move might well have shut Microsoft out of the online space altogether,” said Sanford Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay. Speculation is rising that the Yahoo/Google deal could provoke antitrust scrutiny, and Carl Icahn still has his troops massing to oust Jerry Yang and the Yahoo board. But if he had any clout to force Yahoo into a deal with Microsoft, it wasn’t on show yesterday. Did he lose cred, or does he plan to keep fighting? He may say soon, but probably not on his blog.

With signs that its wealthy clientele are growing nervous, UBS has wrapped up a 16 billion franc ($15.4 billion) rights issue. Flows into its wealth management business slowed to a trickle in the first three months of the year, and this is the Swiss bank’s second effort to resuscitate finances ravaged by the global markets crisis. Dieter Ewald, a fund manager at UBS shareholder Frankfurt Trust, said such concerns had prompted him recently to pare back his investment in the Swiss bank. “UBS is handicapped,” he said. “We are worried that wealth management will be hit. We want to see that the new management can bring it back on track, and then we would invest more again.”

Pfizer may bid for Ranbaxy Laboratories, countering a $4.6 billion offer by Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo for the Indian generic drug maker, the Business Standard newspaper said. Ranbaxy’s shares jumped nearly 5 percent on the report while Daiichi Sankyo’s shares dropped 2 percent. Daiichi Sankyo and Ranbaxy are seeking to become a pharmaceuticals powerhouse that sells both branded drugs and generics. The newspaper added Pfizer had held talks with the Ranbaxy founders for a possible acquisition a year earlier.

An infrastructure fund managed by Australia’s Babcock & Brown is to buy UK train leasing firm Angel Trains from Royal Bank of Scotland for 3.6 billion pounds ($7 billion) including debt. The deal came as shares in Babcock and Brown plunged for a second day on concerns about its debt and ability to raise funds but it will help Royal Bank of Scotland, Britain’s second-biggest bank, which is selling off non-core assets to further boost its balance sheet after raising 12 billion pounds ($23.5 billion) this week in the biggest ever rights issue.

Other deals of the day:

* Britain’s AEA Technology said it would buy U.S. company Project Performance Corp for $65 million and would raise 39.7 million pounds ($77.6 million) through a rights issue to help fund the deal.

Not quite last call

inbev-brito.jpgTalk about a friendly bid. InBev CEO Carlos Brito gushes about Bud in this video statement, making a $46.3 billion bid sound almost cheap. “We respect the Anheuser-Busch board a lot,” he said. “We admire them a lot and we think that the business rationale is very strong. But Bud shares are still trading well below the $65 per share offer, so skepticism abounds. With analysts calling for a bid closer to $70, expect at least a few more rounds.

India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories sees huge opportunities for growth in Japan’s generics drug market and mergers and acquisitions are a likely option for it to expand. The attractiveness of the market was a big factor in its decision to team up with Daiichi Sankyo, Ranbaxy Chief Executive Malvinder Singh told a news conference in Tokyo. Faced with an ageing population and ballooning healthcare costs, Japan’s government has recently taken steps to promote the use of the off-patent drugs — currently only 17 percent of volume compared with 63 percent in the United States. Ranbaxy and Daiichi Sankyo announced on Wednesday that Japan’s No. 3 drug maker would pay up to $4.6 billion for control of the Indian generic drugs maker.

Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit must have seen this coming. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bank plans to close the hedge fund he co-founded, and which more-or-less launched his rocket ship to the top. Last month, Citi said it was looking at restructuring the fund, called Old Lane. Nearly all investors unaffiliated with the fund have requested to redeem their money. Citi bought Old Lane last year for more than $600 million, but the fund’s performance has since been disappointing. Citi wrote down $200 million of intangible assets linked to the acquisition in the first quarter.