Deals wrap: VW revving up for shopping spree?

German automaker Volkswagen has revealed it has amassed a $20-billion war chest it intends to use to finance its ambitious Strategy 2018, VW finance chief Hans Dieter Poetsch told Reuters.

Analysts expect the majority of VW’s cash reserve to be used to bid for the 70 percent of German truckmaker MAN it does not already own and to possibly buy the Porsche AG sports car business and Austria’s Porsche Holding. Even with those three purchases, VW would still have money left over.

Bernstein analyst Max Warburton told Reuters the $22.9 billion cash pile Poetsch claimed the company has accrued is “a ridiculous level of liquidity” unless VW aimed to top up its underfunded pensions or pursue M&A plans.


Rental car rivals Avis and Hertz were also kicking the tires on their respective takeover bids for the Dollar Thrifty Rental Group, according to New York Times DealBook blog contributor Stephen Davidoff. The latest news had Avis Budget Group matching Hertz’s initial takeover offer with their own with Avis CEO Ronald L. Nelson submitting a letter to the Dollar Thrifty board requesting  “removing the matching rights, eliminating the break-up fees, and increasing the commitment to secure antitrust approvals” in any future Hertz bid.

Davidoff argues the motivation behind the unusual Avis request signifies “it fears being stuck in a never-ending bidding war in which Hertz is able to outbid the company by one penny every time, safe in the assumption that Hertz still can pocket the termination fee even if it loses.”

from Funds Hub:

Trust the Cadbury trustee to get a deal

Warren Buffet may think Kraft isn't doing a good deal by taking over Cadbury. With Kraft shares falling, Cadbury's shareholders may not think the deal too sweet either and some disgruntled British consumers may be appalled that a much loved brand will be sold to a non-British group -- and one that sells  chocolate symbolised by a lilac cow at that.

RTR292BEBut one party is sure to get a good deal: the Cadbury pension fund trustees.

While Cadbury fans are digesting the takeover news, the trustees have lost no time in seeking a dialogue with Kraft to make sure they do get a good deal for the workers they represent. Call it fiduciary duty if you like but be sure pension trustees, used to a sponsor that "stood behind the pension fund for more than a hundred years", will give Kraft a hard and cold look to assess its credentials as a sponsor -- what the pension industry calls in vaguely biblical terms "the covenant". 

In theory there is no need for a fight -- Kraft was swift to assure it would honour "the existing contractual employment rights, including pension rights". But did the multi-national really know what this pledge would cost, at least in pension terms?

Reliance aims big with $12 bln bid for LyondellBasell

Ranked by Forbes as India’s richest man with a net worth of $32 billion, Mukesh Ambani Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, is no stranger to taking risks.

The move by conglomerate Reliance Industries, controlled by Ambani, to bid for bankrupt LyondellBasell is a calculated one. Markets seem to think this is a bargain and investors pushed up Reliance’s stock nearly 4 percent on Monday.

If the deal, which sources say may be worth $12 billion,  goes through, it would catapult Reliance into the ranks of top petrochemical makers such as Saudi Arabia’s SABIC, Germany’s BASF and Dow Chemical Co.

Slaying Goliath to save the Dragon

In the blue corner – Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), which recently hired proxy solicitation firm Georgeson to get out the shareholder vote in favour of its $1.9 billion bid to buy out the 48 percent of Dragon Oil it doesn’t already own. (Georgeson say they are the oldest and best shareholder consultancy in the business, and helped engineer a record turnout for the HBOS AGM that approved Lloyds’s takeover of the bank.)

In the red corner – retail investors keen to “Save Dragon Oil”. Armed with a website and a 3,000-page printout detailing of the Turkmenistan-focused oil explorer’s investors…

Noted: Why BHP won’t revisit Rio

The year-long ban BHP Billiton has had on revisiting a takeover of rival miner Rio Tinto will soon end, but it seems as if the moment has passed. Liberum and Investec said earlier this week that most of the synergies were captured anyway by the duo’s iron-ore joint venture.  If regulators nix that deal, analysts say a full takeover could be back on — but how that would pass muster if a JV doesn’t is not clear. On Friday, Credit Suisse joined the chorus of disapproval, saying a takeover would cut BHP’s return on equity (ROE) in half. From the CS note:

“We have re-run the numbers on an all scrip BHP Billiton takeover of Rio Tinto at a 30% premium (2.3 BHP shares for each RIO share). We see such a deal as materially EPS dilutive (by 12% even after year 3) and would significantly decrease BHP’s return on equity (from 25% to 12%).

“We do not see BHP making another takeover offer for RIO because: (i) The iron ore JV should capture many of the synergy benefits expected from the possible merger. (ii) If the iron ore JV fails on account of not passing regulatory hurdles similarly then we do not see a takeover receiving regulatory passage. (iii) We do not foresee shareholder support for the deal (and any such deal would use BHP script) with the potential EPS dilution and ROE erosion significant. (iv) Non-availability of sufficient credit facilities.

The derision thing

Derisory (di-ry-ser-i) adj. deserving derision; too insignificant for serious consideration.

In lambasting a formal takeover offer from Kraft as “derisory”, Cadbury Chairman Roger Carr has both ratcheted up the rhetoric (an earlier letter to Kraft did not use this term) and struck a tone familiar to connoisseurs of bid battles. Carr, of course, is a veteran dealmaker himself.

UK targets have often found rejecting an approach as “derisory” is just scornful enough, without incurring the wrath of the Takeover Panel. Other approaches to have met with the same brushoff include Macquarie’s 2005 hostile bid for the London Stock Exchange and BHP Billiton’s epic tilt at rival miner Rio Tinto.  Over in Ireland, Aer Lingus has decried the advances of budget archrival Ryanair in exactly the same manner.

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.

Tandberg shareholders take on Cisco

Acquisitive by nature, with a famed M&A team at hand and a couple of different bids already in the market, Cisco Systems is no stranger to stakeholders in its takeover targets trying to get a better deal. So news that investors holding 24 percent of the shares in videoconferencing firm Tandberg have snubbed Cisco’s $3 billion bid shouldn’t rattle the company too much.

A Norwegian analyst figured it was possible Cisco might raise its 153.50 crowns-per-share bid by 11 percent. But investors aren’t nearly as optimistic about Cisco opening up its wallet or a rival bidder emerging. Tandberg shares are hovering at only about a crown above Cisco’s offer price, even after the call to arms from existing shareholders.

The one-month tender period for Tandberg shareholders began on Oct. 9, and Cisco needs acceptances from at least 90 percent of shareholders to fully acquire the company. Analysts say it could opt for a smaller stake if the price for the whole company isn’t right.

from Commentaries:

Schh…Orangina Schweppes bound for Japan

ORANGINAThere's an almost palpable sigh of relief in the statement from Blackstone and Lion Capital confirming the two private equity firms have received a "binding offer" from Japan's Suntory for Orangina Schweppes.

It discloses little beyond Blackstone and Lion saying they will only be able to decide whether to accept the offer "once the necessary social, legal and
regulatory steps will have been completed".

All that of course involves lots of red tape -- so it may take some time -- but you can be sure Blackstone and Lion will be doing everything they can to speed the process along -- wishing the days away and hoping that their luck holds.

Road to fortune or highway to hell?

GM-OPEL/That will ultimately be the question asked about what kind of a future the German carmaker Opel faces.

Parent General Motors said on Thursday that it indeed wanted
to sell a majority stake in the unit to Canadian auto parts
group Magna and Russia’s Sberbank, a decision long favoured by the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

With about two weeks to go until a general election in
Europe’s biggest economy, this would clearly be a political
victory — but the question remains whether it will also be an
economic one.