DealZone

DealZone Daily

Time Warner is considering making a second-round bid of up to $1.5 billion for Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a source tells us. The March 19 deadline for the bids for MGM — whose film library includes the James Bond and Pink Panther franchises — may well be extended.

Shares in Arrow Energy have been suspended — the suspicion is that Royal Dutch Shell and Petrochina will sweeten their joint $3 billion offer for the Australian gas producer. Read the Reuters story here.

And as I am writing this, London-listed Gulfsands Petroleum is saying that it has rejected a preliminary takeover approach. The suitor is Indian, it has also said, but it’s not ONGC. To be continued.

For all other news on deals from Reuters, click here. In rival media:

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group chairman Li Shufu indicated talks to buy Ford’s Volvo car unit had hit a snag due to problems at Ford, but continues to expect to complete the deal, says a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Takeover target Arriva is refusing to open its books to Deutsche Bahn unless the German firm increases its almost 1.4 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) bid for the train and bus operator, according to UK newspaper The Times.

No longer just a dumb pipe

Comcast’s deal to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric should put to rest fears at the cable operator that King Content will kill its business. But even if it becomes a thoroughfare of programming genius, the new venture will still have to convince a skeptical marketplace. The train wreck of Time Warner-AOL threw the idea of new media into financial purgatory.

Just how the venture will wring savings from its disparate businesses and avoid suffocating regulatory scrutiny are issues that could also create Comcastic headaches.  Robert MacMillan points out on our Mediafile blog, with a sensible dose of skepticism, that the new venture is affirming its commitment to local news, in effect, promising to keep the garden hoses pumping even as it primes for a media gusher with big-ticket programming.

Still, while making a new media juggernaut could still turn out to be a pipe dream, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts (pictured above) cannot be faulted for allowing his company to get stuck in a dumb pipe nightmare.

AOL then and now

Anyone want to take a shot at what’s behind Time Warner‘s repurchase of a 5 percent stake in AOL held by Google? Time Warner sold the stake in December 2005 for $1 billion. Now, it has bought it back for $238 million — a nice job of selling high and buying low. Time Warner plans to spin off AOL by the end of the year.

The 2005 deal implied a chunky price tag of $20 billion for AOL. While it may not be exactly apples to apples, the repurchase implies a value of about $5.7 billion.

Brigantine Advisors analyst Colin Gillis said the implied $5.7 billion represents a “floor valuation ” as AOL moves toward a spinoff. If that’s true, then Google not only overpaid, but undersold.

Yahoo’s deal with Google: Band-Aid

So Yahoo and Google scaled back the terms of their search advertising deal in what looks like a last-ditch, attempt — at least for Yahoo — to get it past U.S. regulators.

Some analysts called it the Band-Aid deal, while others said it smacks of desperation.

Frost & Sullivan’s digital media global director Mukul Krishna said the revised terms were “more of a Band-Aid than the extensive surgery” Yahoo needs.

A-courtin’ we will go

Wedding ornamentLike a bad soap opera, the Internet storyline is getting more and more convoluted. The tale so far: Microsoft Corp, spurned by Yahoo Inc, is courting Time Warner Inc to allow a union with Internet division AOL. But Yahoo, which turned its back on Microsoft’s $47.5 billion bid, also wants AOL’s hand. These talks have taken on a new urgency ahead of Yahoo’s Aug. 1 shareholders meeting, a source familiar with discussions told Reuters on Tuesday. How either marriage will work is not immediately clear, but any combination will likely redraw the landscape for advertising on the Internet. So why is AOL so attractive? Both Yahoo and Microsoft view it as beneficial to leverage their positions in the Internet marketplace, where search giant Google Inc dominates. Stay tuned.

But good soaps are not only made in America. It seems the Germans are good at them, too. Tires-to-brakes maker Continental rejected Schaeffler Group’s surprise 11.2 billion euro ($17.8 billion) bid, saying only the family owned firm stood to gain from the offer which was too low. Late on Tuesday, the ball-bearing maker announced the terms of its proposed takeover after winning control of more than a third of Continental’s shares through a web of options organized for it discretely by banks. Schaeffler’s bearings are found in London’s landmark Ferris wheel, the London Eye and it also makes high-precision bearing supports for the U.S. space shuttle and the European launch vehicle Ariane, not that that has any bearing on a deal.

Some suitors, however, do get lucky. Mining company Cleveland-Cliffs Inc said on Wednesday it would acquire Alpha Natural Resources Inc for about $10 billion in cash and stock to expand its coal assets. Stockholders of Alpha, an Appalachian coal producer, will receive 0.95 of a Cleveland-Cliffs common share and $22.23 in cash for each of their common shares when the union is completed. Based on closing stock prices on Tuesday, the deal values Alpha at $128.12 per share, a premium of 35 percent, the companies said in a statement. The combined company will be renamed Cliffs Natural Resources and will include nine iron ore facilities and more than 60 coal mines located across North America, South America and Australia.

More Microhooey?

People walk past Yahoo! offices in Santa MonicaThe Wall Street Journal leads with a piece saying Microsoft is preparing a new bid for Yahoo‘s search business that could bring on board media giants Time Warner and News Corp and effectively lead to Yahoo’s breakup. The talks are preliminary and unlikely to result in a deal with Yahoo, the paper said, and although it all seems whimsical, Yahoo shares jumped more than 6 percent in early trade. Yahoo rejected a $47.5 billion takeover offer by Microsoft, and earlier this week questioned whether the software maker was ever serious about a full-scale merger. Carl Icahn, who is running a slate of directors to replace Yahoo’s board and has called for the removal of Chief Executive Jerry Yang, has met with Microsoft, which is encouraging him to press his proxy contest as a way to keep pressure on Yahoo to enter into a deal that would lift its share price, the paper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

British events organizer and publisher Informa said it was considering a 2.15 billion pound ($4.3 billion) bid approach from a consortium of private equity firms, sending its shares 10 percent higher. Informa said in a statement that Providence Equity, The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman had made a bid proposal of 506 pence a share on June 26. “Discussions continue to be at an early stage and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made,” it said. When news emerged last month that the equity firms were working on a bid for the media company, the shares showed only modest gains as analysts questioned whether a deal would succeed in the current tight credit markets.

The markets took down another deal yesterday. Blaming grim market conditions Blockbuster abandoned its $1.3 billion offer to buy electronics retailer Circuit City. Shares of the video rental chain jumped more than 7 percent in extended trade after the news while Circuit City’s shares fell 1.6 percent, after declining nearly 12 percent at Tuesday’s close — hitting their lowest point in two decades. Speculation that a potential deal with Blockbuster would not happen gained ground after Circuit City posted a wider quarterly loss and cut its dividend in June.

Just enough for the Citi

citigroup.jpgCitigroup‘s $3 billion $4.5 billion stock offering didn’t exactly dazzle one of its most well-known critics, as Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney said the company will need to raise an additional $10 billion to $15 billion or sell assets worth billions to truly shore up its capital position. “The fact that Citi raised capital at this time did not come as a surprise to us, but the fact that the company raised such a small amount of capital at this time confounds us,” said Whitney, who correctly predicted last year that the company would have to cut its dividend.

Time Warner is kissing its majority-owned cable division goodbye, part of CEO Jeffrey Bewkes’s attempt to revamp the company and lift its sluggish stock price. Details on how the transaction will be structured were scarce, but analysts have speculated that the separately listed unit could be spun off to shareholders.

UK gas producer BG Group has made a $12 billion bid approach to Origin Energy, seeking to bolster its position in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific gas market by securing the Australian utility’s gas reserves. The companies said BG, valued at around $85 billion, had approached Origin with a proposal of A$14.70 per share in cash — a 40 percent premium to Origin’s close of A$10.47 on Tuesday.