DealZone

Deals wrap: Rare air brings deal

The city of Davos is seen at sunset January 25, 2011.   REUTERS/Vincent Kessler  It took the rarefied air of the Swiss Alps to bring together the chief executives of Sanofi-Aventis and Genzyme  and pave the way for a $20.1 billion deal.

As the cream of the telecoms industry debates how best to make money from mobile data,Vimpelcom’s Alexander Izosimov  is alone in betting his balance sheet on it in unfashionable western Europe.

Chinese oil majors are set to accelerate their overseas buying spree in unconventional oil and gas assets, with an eye on technology key to help shift China’s reliance on coal to lower-carbon fuel over the next decade.

The bond of friendship doesn’t mean much when the government comes knocking on your door, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Warren Buffett will make his first trip to India next month and it could be a precursor to some deals, reports the Economic Times.

from Breakingviews:

Buffett may struggle to repeat his Swiss Re exit

Warren Buffett may struggle to repeat his Swiss Re exit. The legendary investor bailed out three big beasts during the financial crisis: the Swiss insurer, GE and Goldman Sachs. The Sage of Omaha has allowed Swiss Re to buy back its expensive convertible stock early. He may have less scope to be as generous with the other two.

Of the three deals, Buffett's $3.1 billion investment in Swiss Re convertible shares had the most strings attached. Negotiated at the depths of the market slump, the stock paid a 12 percent annual coupon until March 2012, when it would convert into ordinary shares at a price of 25 Swiss francs.

As Swiss Re's share price is now twice that level, the insurer was keen to buy back the convertibles. But it had also agreed to pay Buffett a hefty 40 percent premium if it redeemed before March 2011, and a 20 percent premium after that.

Deals wrap: Ghana oil fields targeted

China’s top offshore oil company CNOOC has made a joint $5 billion bid with Ghana National Petroleum Corp for Kosmos Energy’s assets, a source close to the deal told Reuters. Kosmos is prized for its stake in Jubilee, one of the largest oil discoveries in the world in recent years.

Previously a $4 billion bid by Exxon Mobile for Kosmos failed because it was unable to secure Ghanaian government support. GNPC sources have told Reuters since last year that it had been talking to CNOOC about a possible bid. *View article

FT’s Alphaville blog breaks down the ramifications of Barclays losing its court battle with Lehman Brothers over its purchase of Lehman’s brokerage unit in bankruptcy proceedings in 2008. A loss could cost Barclays as much as $10 billion. *View article

Deals wrap: Who’s eying Yahoo?

The headquarters of Yahoo Inc. is pictured in Sunnyvale, California, May 5, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith Yahoo shares surged after sources said private equity firms have approached News Corp and AOL to gauge interest in a buyout deal. *View article *View WSJ blog asking if a deal would make sense *NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin writes: “A deal is not happening anytime soon.”

Is he a loudmouth corporate raider or the investing world’s version of a Las Vegas Elvis? Reuters interviews hedge fund manager William Ackman to find out. *View article *Full coverage PDF

Private equity firms have been reaping huge dividends from companies they own. A WSJ blog asks if the feeding frenzy has gone too far. *View blog

Deals wrap: A successor for Buffett?

A fairly unheralded 44-year-old Chinese-American hedge fund manager, with a strong background as a human rights activist, has become a leading candidate to replace Warren Buffett, should he retire as founder and CEO of the $100-billion Berkshire Hathaway fund, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Li Lu, who was a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, is the first person to be identified to potentially replace the soon to be 80-year-old Buffett, in what the WSJ story said is “among the most high-profile succession stories in modern corporate history.”

Buffett told the WSJ his retirement plans are not imminent and his job would likely be split after he leaves the company into separate CEO and investing functions. The WSJ story revealed David Sokol, the current chairman of Berkshire unit MidAmerican Energy Holdings, is considered the top contender for Buffett’s CEO role, while Li would potentially serve as one of Berkshire’s top fund managers.

Looking for a Sun Valley deal

The logo on the door of the Sun Valley resort, site of the 26th annual Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 8, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking  At Sun Valley, so far, it’s the fabricated deals that are getting the headlines. News Corp is not in talks to sell MySpace, despite the rumors. View article Read More

BP boss Tony Hayward is in the Middle East in a quest for cash to ward off takeovers. What’s in it for sovereign wealth funds in the oil-rich area? Diversity, says Reuters reporter Natsuko Waki. View article

The hedge fund industry has seen inflows of roughly $30 billion since last summer but British firm Man Group is not following the trend. Outflows from institutions have shrunk from year-ago levels but private investors are now pulling money out. View article

Now that the “world’s largest IPO” headlines  have been written about Agbank,  do the big numbers add up? View FT article

How to get a job in business? Short Buffett

Raj Rajagopal will graduate from business school in May and he’s currently looking for a job. But don’t expect the Cornell University student to get a call anytime soon from Warren Buffett.

That’s because Rajagopal recently put together a report in which he recommended selling shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in part because “adoration is not an investment strategy.” In short, Rajagopal said anyone who sinks money into Buffett’s empire is chasing past returns and buying shares “at the tail end of his career.”

Rajagopal’s 15-page presentation is making the rounds on Wall Street and being circulated by some hedge fund managers who aren’t particualy big fans of the so-called Oracle of Omaha.

Cadbury cracks

The recommended £11.9bn (US$19.4bn) offer by Kraft for Cadbury appears satisfactory to both parties. Kraft gets its prize, ultimately paying 13% more than it initially wanted. Cadbury shareholders receive 48% more than the value of their shares prior to Kraft’s approach.

Cadbury’s board can be pleased they managed to extract so much value when alternative bids seemed unlikely. Kraft’s management, led by Irene Rosenfeld, has remained disciplined helped by the side deal: selling its pizza business to Nestle for US$3.7bn.

Nevertheless, increasing the cash element of its offer to 500p a share, or 60% of the total bid, could cause Kraft some financial headaches, pushing its debt levels to over four times EBITDA. Rosenfeld denies that it will affect the company’s credit rating. If it did, the deal’s rationale would be dented.

Kraft’s sugar high

Kraft was always expected to raise its bid for Cadbury, even with no real rival to its initial overture and grumblings from top shareholder Warren Buffett about Kraft possibly overpaying with its stock. The only question was how much. But if it did overpay, it did so with credit. Just in case shareholders were thinking of making a stink, CEO Irene Rosenfeld ratcheted up the cash component to a level that negates the need for shareholder approval.

Dealmakers said the agreement was struck after all-night negotiations in London. It values Cadbury at 840 pence per share. Shareholders will also get a special dividend of 10p per share, bringing the total to 850p per share. That far exceeds scaled-back expectations and was a big jump from the sub-800p levels that had so soured earlier negotiations.

With growing expectations that Hershey would muster a bid around these levels, and all of those high-brow British M&A deadlines clicking into place, getting a friendly agreement had gained urgency going into the weekend. While pundits’ palates (beyond those of fondue-chomping Europhiles, if you keep an ear on CNBC) may rebel at the swirling of chocolate and cheese, Rosenfeld has for at least a day gone from looking outflanked by both her own shareholders and grumpy Cadbury executives to a box of chocolate roses.

Is Cadbury too rich for Hershey?

While Cadbury shares saw some life on hopes for a rival bid from Hershey — boosted by reporting from the FT that a rival offer was further along than much of the market had assumed — naysaying analysts and pundits have been quick to point out that the financials of a Hershey bid are hard to stomach.

Hershey is only half the size of Cadbury, and a big share issue would dilute the stake of the controlling Hershey Trust, which has been every bit as crucial to defining the company as the kiss. The FT report says Hershey is working on a private equity element with none other than Byron Trott, Warren Buffett’s banker of choice. The idea that Buffett, who is Kraft’s biggest shareholder, could play both sides of a bidding war is, if not new, certainly intriguing, particularly given his apparent distaste for Kraft selling its own shares to keep its bid attractive.

And while Cadbury has repeatedly denied it is looking for a white knight, a deal that would leave its management in place, perhaps in exchange for keeping the Hershey Trust intact, could be attractive enough to consider breaking off a piece of Cadbury to give to a private equity investor to chew on … its gum business, for example.