Unstructured Finance

Deals wrap: Conoco may double assets sale

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said it might double its planned sale of less-desirable assets to $20 billion, with proceeds going to buy back stock.

Conoco is executing a plan, first announced in late 2009, to increase shareholder value through debt reduction, stock buybacks and increased dividends. Conoco did not immediately specify what might be sold, but did say those assets targeted would be mature, high-cost projects.

Consumer goods group Colgate-Palmolive has agreed to pay around $940 million for Sanex, a shower gel and deodorant brand which owner Unilever had been ordered to sell. The sale comes just a week after Unilever announced it was stepping up new product launches to drive growth.

Corporate predators could find the beleaguered reinsurance sector offers attractive opportunities, provided they have the nerve to look beyond a round of bumper claims triggered by the Japanese earthquake. “The market was turning anyway, and the earthquake will shift it, which will obviously be a good entry point for private equity and for M&A activity on a wider basis,” said Barrie Cornes, insurance analyst at Panmure Gordon.

After its acquisitions of the Huffington Post and TechCrunch last year, AOL will begin the process of overhauling its family of content sites, reported All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher. AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong will reportedly issue an internal memo detailing the closing down of “dozens of its dedicated content sites — some being shuttered completely and others integrated with existing Huffington Post sites,” writes Swisher.

What’s a nurdle? Well, Colgate and Glaxo are sparring over the word

nurdle1To paraphrase William Shakespeare, would a nurdle by any other name still be a nurdle? 

For those who don’t know, a nurdle — a wave-like gob of toothpaste applied on a toothbrush —  is at the center of a trademark lawsuit filed by consumer product company Colgate-Palmolive against rival GlaxoSmithKline.

Colgate sued Glaxo, which owns the Aquafresh brand, seeking a court order that its packaging for Colgate toothpaste does not infringe trademarks held by Glaxo, which had filed a trademark application for the nurdle design.

Check Out Line: The slow return of the splurge

Check out signs that consumers are getting more comfortable with spending and, at times, even splurging.

Estee Lauder reported a far better-than-expected 62 percent jump in quarterly profit and boosted its full-year forecast as consumers began to splurge on cosmetics after a year-long slide in sales. Results were helped by strong growth in Asia, new products, and a better-than-expected performance in airport stores and in the United States.

pgUnder Armour, the maker of athletic clothing and footwear, reported an 83 percent rise in its holiday-quarter profit helped by gains in its apparel business. It said it now expects 2010 revenue and earnings to grow 10 percent to 12 percent, up from its prior range that called for a rise in the high-single to low-double-digits.

DealZone Daily

Reckitt Benckiser shares rise 2 percent — so markets are taking notice of the Daily Telegraph’s “latest tale” that the UK group could link up with Colgate-Palmolive. Benckiser is worth roughly $37 billion in the market, Colgate some $41.2 billion, so a deal would be humongous. And this just in: J.P. Morgan Cazenove will become a fully-owned part of J.P. Morgan, as the U.S. investment bank buys out its joint-venture partner Cazenove Group.

Finally, Blackstone Group’s Pinnacle Brands Corp is likely to buy U.S. frozen vegetable company Birds Eye Foods for more than $1.3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the latest deals news from Reuters, click here.

Check Out Line: The consumer products earnings parade

cheese.jpgCheck out consumer product powerhouses including Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Colgate, inundating Wall Street with quarterly reports on Wednesday.

The reports largely showed that the companies are finding successful ways to navigate the consumer spending slowdown and the commodity price surge that has raised their cost of doing business.

P & G, world’s largest consumer products maker, with brands ranging from Pampers diapers to Olay skin-care products, posted higher quarterly profit. It said cost controls helped offset soaring prices for oil and other commodities.