DealZone Daily

Chinese bank ICBC is in talks to buy a stake in Taiwan’s Cathay Financial, sources say, in a deal that could be worth more than $3 billion.The talks come amid an easing of cross-strait relations between the former enemies, in hopes of boosting both economies and political ties.

In other M&A news reported by Reuters and other media on Wednesday: 

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Taiwan financial conglomerate Fubon Financial are among the bidders for Morgan Stanley’s stake in Chinese investment bank CICC, sources say, in a deal that could be worth more than $1 billion.

Government-controlled Brazilian bank Caixa Economica Federal agrees to pay $429 million for a 49 percent voting stake in commercial bank Banco Panamericano to expand in consumer lending.

Takeda Pharmaceutical, Japan’s largest drugmaker, may look for acquisitions in India to boost its presence in Asia’s third-largest economy, the Financial Express reports.

DealZone Daily

General Electric and Vivendi agree to a deal in which GE would buy the French company’s 20 percent stake in NBC Universal for $5.8 billion, a source familiar with the matter says, paving the way for Comcast Corp’s proposed joint venture with GE.

Geely, the Chinese carmaker picked as the preferred bidder for Ford Motor’s Volvo unit, is seeking at least $1 billion in loans from Chinese banks to finance its $1.8 billion bid, sources say.

Zijin Mining Group, China’s largest listed gold company, offers $498 million for Indophil Resources, chasing the Australian miner’s one-third stake in a big copper and gold lode in the Philippines.

DealZone Daily

Pubs operator Mitchells & Butlers will ask Britain’s takeover watchdog to rule whether rebel shareholders are attempting to gain control of the group after they blocked the appointment of a chairman.

Piedmont, an investment vehicle owned by billionaire Joe Lewis that owns 23 percent of M&B, obstructed the appointment of an independent chairman and vetoed three candidates at the final stage despite being involved in the hiring process from its beginning.

In other M&A and corporate finance news reported by Reuters and other media:

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC) might still be interested in buying General Motors’ Saab unit, the Chinese car company’s general manager says. “I would just say, ‘stay tuned a little bit’,” he says.

DealZone Daily

Motorola is in the early stages of looking into a potential sale of its $4.5 billion television set-top box and network equipment business, two sources tell Reuters. Suitors will include private equity firms and other communications equipment makers, one of the sources says.

In other M&A and capital markets news reported by Reuters and other media on Thursday:

British Airways and Iberia could announce a merger as early as Friday, Sky News reports, citing unidentified sources. Click here for the Reuters story.

Is the worst over?

Merger mania is back, at least that’s what the numbers seem to show.

A staggering total of about $60 billion worth of corporate deals have been announced or rumoured in global markets since Saturday alone. The takeover feast is impressive, spread as it is across diverse sectors such as foods, semiconductors, financials and telecoms.

Kraft Foods’s blockbuster $16.7 billion offer to buy Cadbury has suddenly turned the spotlight back to dealmaking and swept away markets’ lingering concerns of patchy economic growth. The rising deal volume is a welcome relief for investment banks, who’ve gone through a torrid year after Lehman’s bankruptcy last September brought M&A to a halt. The dealmaking will help them partly fill their coffers with much-needed advisory fees and a kick up in the league tables.

No doubt with many equity markets rallying to 2009 highs, and lured by prospects of improved valuations, many buyers are chasing deals while prices are seen as cheap. That could have been the thinking behind Abu Dhabi’s move to offer $1.8 billion to buy loss-making Nasdaq-listed, Singapore-based Chartered Semiconductor in a chip sector emerging from its worst downturn.

Deals du Jour

Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), which plans to spin off AOL by the end of the year, said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it paid $283 million for Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) 5 percent stake in AOL.

In other M&A related stories reported by Reuters and other media on Tuesday:

German flagship carrier Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) said it has applied with the Austrian Takeover Commission to extend a deadline for a planned deal to acquire Austrian Airlines (AUAV.VI) by a month to Aug. 31. Click here for a Reuters story.

Private equity group CVC Capital Partners was prepared to offer up to 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) for Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (ABI.BR) Central and Eastern European assets, ahead of a Monday deadline, newspaper De Tijd reports. The private equity firm was in talks with 13 banks, including HSBC, Unicredit and Calyon to secure a loan of at least 700 million euros. While TPG Capital was still in the running, KKR had dropped out of the proceedings.

Deals du Jour

Japanese banks Aozora and Shinsei, both loss-making lenders backed by U.S. investors, are in talks to merge to create Japan’s sixth-largest bank.

A deal would give Aozora access to Shinsei’s retail deposits to ease its funding needs and could provide Shinsei with a much-needed boost to capital.

It could also signal that banks around the world will seek deals as they emerge from the financial crisis.

Deals du Jour

Trading giant Glencore is the front-runner to buy a 51 percent stake in Chemoil Energy from the family of the founder Robert Chandran, sources told Reuters. The stake in the marine fuel supplier could be worth about $240 million.

Other deals reported by Reuters and other media on Wednesday include:

CITIC 1616 Holdings is seeking to buy international direct dialing and mobile value-added service assets in the Asia Pacific region by the end of 2009, a senior executive told Reuters.

European Union antitrust regulators approved German utility RWE’s 8.2 billion euro ($11.4 billion) takeover of Dutch peer Essent on the condition that it sell Essent’s controlling stake in a German unit.

Deals du Jour

Virgin Group is keen on buying long-running takeover targets Northern Rock and bmi and is open to discussions on both, its flamboyant president Richard Branson tells Reuters.

Branson said Virgin Money was open to a deal for nationalised bank Northern Rock, despite being rebuffed last year, and he also expects to have talks with German carrier Lufthansa over its British airline bmi.

For the main Reuters Deals news, click here. And in the newspapers on Tuesday:

Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin is seeking control of metals giant Norilsk Nickel as he wants to buy 25 percent in it from tycoon Oleg Deripaska’s UC RUSAL, Vedomosti business daily reported. Click here for the Reuters story.

Deals du Jour

Lovefilm, love private equity?

British mail order DVD rental company Lovefilm is in talks with private equity firms including KKR and Silver Lake Partners about buying out existing shareholders and providing support for expansion, the Financial Times reports, citing people with direct knowledge of the strategy.

Elsewhere in the media:
* Bain Capital and PAI Partners have both made offers for about 30 percent of Italian eyewear maker Safilo Group and the potential deal might also include an option to acquire a majority holding at a later date, the FT reports.

* Winkworth, the London estate agency, plans to float on the Alternative Investment Market in the autumn, the Times says.