DealZone

from Summit Notebook:

How to gum up an exchange merger: salt water

It's a puzzle M&A bankers and corporate executives have been trying to solve for years: how far from your home market can an acquisition take place and ultimately stumble over cultural differences? It's a question that looms large as quintessentially Italian automaker Fiat prepares to swallow up Chrysler -- inventor of the K-car and the minivan -- and which reportedly haunts St Louis-based employees of Anheuser Busch in the aftermath of their company's takeover by the penny pinching Belgians and Brazilians at InBev.

Gary Katz, CEO of Deutsche Boerse unit International Securities Exchange, insisted during his appearance at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit that all has been sweetness and light since the Germans assumed control of the upstart American options exchange and that there has been "nearly zero turnover" since the takeover.

But Thomas Kloet, Chief Executive of Canadian exchange powerhouse TMX, was one of several executives at the summit who insisted that cross border mergers can often be a recipe for disaster and that the ideal mergers are "domestic roll-ups" like CME Group's takeover of Nymex and the Chicago Board of Trade or indeed TSX Group's takeover of the Montreal Exchange, which created TMX.

Implicitly criticizing some of the first-ever cross border deals in the sector like NYSE's merger with Euronext, Kloet said: "there are significant regulatory differences that make cross border mergers pretty difficult to do, especially when they start passing over salt water, so to speak."

Listen to the attached recording to hear the former ABN AMRO senior managing director's ruminations on exchange M&A in full.

Energy asset on block at Blackstone?

USAOne intriguing remark that Blackstone COO Tony James let slip on today’s earnings call is that it could be gearing up to sell an energy asset. 
James explained that while opportunities to exit investments weren’t numerous, it had succeeded making a profit on the sale of pharmaceutical company Stiefel. 
“We have another company in our portfolio… in the energy sector, which had some very, very exciting results finding unbelievable amounts of hydrocarbons and… that might be something we’d look to exit,” James said on a call to the media. 
He didn’t identify the company so we’re doing the guessing ourselves — out of the current energy investments Blackstone lists on its website, we reckon Kosmos Energy, which has a significant oil field in Ghana, could fit the bill.

(Additional reporting by Mike Erman)

First Reserve’s deal war-chest expands

oilFirst Reserve is sitting on another $9 billion of spending money for energy deals after finishing raising its latest buyout fund, Fund XII. The private equity giant, which specialises in energy investments, said the fund is the largest ever raised in the energy sector and exceeds its previous fund, Fund XI, which raised $7.8 billion in 2006. 

The fund appears to be lower than target, however. London-based private equity intelligence firm Preqin said in a recent report that the fund had a $12 billion target.

“Energy remains a large, dynamic and complex industry where change creates new, attractive investment opportunities,” said William Macaulay, Chief Executive Officer of First Reserve in the press release (below).

Another deal in healthcare: what’s the magic pill?

pillsAs dealmakers everywhere struggle to get deals done, the healthcare industry seals yet another one.

Express Scripts has agreed to buy health insurer WellPoint’s prescription business for $4.68 billion in a significant expansion for the U.S. pharmacy beenfit manager. The deal will be a concoction of cash and up to $1.4 billion in common stock, and will generate more than $1 billion of incremental EBITDA.

This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s $41.1 billion takeover of Schering Plough and Roche Holding’s $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech. Granted, this isn’t a pharma deal, but it still falls under the umbrella of the healthcare sector.

JPMorgan slashing research, ex employees say

NEWYORK-BEAR    JPMorgan is cutting 30 percent of its research department, according to two former employees, but the bank is keeping mum about its plans and declined to give details of the cuts.
    David DeRose and Leighton Thomas, co-founders of a Bear Stearns alternative research unit that moved to JPMorgan when that bank acquired Bear a year ago, said on Wednesday they sold the unit to an investment firm largely because they could not hire more staff under JPMorgan’s management.
    “If you stay under a research division that’s being cut 30 percent, we can’t get any headcount,” said DeRose.
    JPMorgan intends to shed 1,000 to 2,000 jobs from its investment bank this year, co-investment bank chief Steve Black said at the bank’s investor day in February.
    It was unclear whether the cuts DeRose mentioned are included in these figures and a JPMorgan spokesman declined comment.
    Research staff may be an easy target for cuts, since it is hard to quantify their contribution to the bank’s bottom line.
    And banks’ research divisions across Wall Street have been shrinking since the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2002 banned firms from using banking fees to pay analysts.

By Elinor Comlay

Allen Stanford: Tales from Mexia

stanfordTrying to report the comprehensive story of Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused of perpetrating an $8 billion fraud, is like trying to reassemble 100 documents after they’ve been through the shredder.

Stanford’s business and sports interests and the subsequent investigations into them stretch across the ocean, through numerous government agencies and courts and into the lives of people in places big and small.

As usual, there was too much to fit into any one story.

Last week I flew from New York to Houston and drove about three hours north to Mexia, Texas the small town where Stanford grew up. I wrote about Mexia here, and about Stanford’s complicated personal ties — apparently he charmed women as well as investors and has left an angry trail of both, including an estranged wife, several girlfriends and six children with four women.

UBS dodges bigger bullet in tax pact

SWITZERLANDEmbattled Swiss bank UBS struck a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that will cost them $780 million. It could have been worse.

Though paying a hefty fine, the Swiss bank is paying ZERO punitive fines, despite conceding that they helped U.S. residents – estimated to number 250 — avoid paying income taxes over an eight year period.

The agreement announced on Wednesday specifies that UBS will give up $380 million of profit from eight years of cross-border business — of which $200 million will be paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and $180 million to the Department of Justice — and $400 million for back taxes, tax penalties and restitution for unpaid taxes and interest .

Allen Stanford: Fraudster or just “Crazy for Cricket”?

Texan billionaire Allen Stanford says the English cricket authorities need to have a new Twenty20 league in place within two years or they risk "missing the boat" during an interview with Reuters on May 1, 2008 in Miami.

Allen Stanford’s financial empire is in chaos after the SEC charged that he and his partners were perpetrating a “massive” fraud, but only four months ago things appeared much sunnier, at least in a glowing Forbes profile that described his investment strategy as “sure and steady.”

The profile, “Crazy for Cricket,” was part of the Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans (Stanford was #205). It outlines his goal of competing within five years with the likes of UBS and Wachovia — although to be fair, the former company has had its own problems and Stanford managed to outlast the latter.

An exodus of wealth advisers is already under way, says Stanford, as writedowns and layoffs mount at those firms. In a single week in August, he says, his new Richmond, Va. office hired ex-UBS employees with clients representing $1 billion in assets. “There are a lot of deals to be made in financial services–banks, brokerages, trusts,” he says. Another industry he’s eyeing is desalination plants in developing countries like China: “We’re very bullish on making a lot of money on water in the next 20 years.”