Unstructured Finance

Investors worry about Towers Watson

Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin executives are excited about their deal to create Towers Watson, but investors are not cheering as much. 

Watson Wyatt’s shares plunged nearly 10 percent in Monday morning trading, as investors woke up to the all-stock deal valued at about $3.5 billion, announced Sunday.

A Citi analyst downgraded the Watson Wyatt, which is publicly held, to “hold” from “buy”, calling the companies’ three-year integration plan a “major risk.” 

Among the concerns: integration and deal costs may lower earnings, and rivals like Hewitt and Mercer could grab people and other opportunities in the interim. 

It will take three years to achieve savings of $80 million through job cuts and the streamlining of overlapping operations. The companies also expect one-time costs of $80 million from the merger and “significant noncash expenses” for the first two years. 

No bruised egos as Bharti-MTN redial once again

Exactly one year ago, squabbles over control forced Bharti Airtel and MTN to ditch their hope of forming a global telecoms group, but both emerging markets-focused companies are back on the negotiating table to thrash out a $61 billion merger.

What’s changed?

MTNFor a start, both firms are now publicly talking about a detailed structure for the combined entity, something that was missing last time.

As part of an initial deal worth more than $23 billion unveiled on Monday, Bharti will pay in cash and shares for 49 percent of MTN, while MTN pays cash and stock for an effective 36 percent stake in the Indian firm. Previous merger talks collapsed when the South African firm proposed a new structure that would have seen Bharti become an MTN unit.

The clock is ticking for BankUnited

Florida condominiumsSome people thought Florida lender BankUnited would be sold months ago as regulators fretted over its health amid the housing downturn. 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp tends to take over banks on Fridays as it gives them the weekend to put an institution’s business in order and re-open it under new management by Monday. So the question was, is this the Friday?

The government has given BankUnited some leeway to try to work out a deal. That flexibility may be because the bank has some $13 billion of assets, and disposing of a bank that big could result in a real hit to the FDIC’s insurance fund, Raymond James analyst Michael Rose told Reuters in February.

Big car. Smaller and smaller offers.

HummerThe number of bidders for GM’s Hummer brand has narrowed down to three, with current offers ranging from $100 million to $200 million in cash, in addition to other commitments, sources told Reuters.

That would be a further comedown from what was already a comedown — investment bankers initially estimated that the iconic gas guzzler could fetch between $500 million and $750 million, considering it a distressed asset.

Last month, GM turned back a Kentucky industrialist with a lowball bid, who had also put together plans for new powertrain options for Hummer, including a hybrid version of the H3 that would double its fuel economy from the current 14-to-18 miles per gallon, a source said.

Missing Lady Luck

CityCenterThere was a time not so long ago when “smart” investors and analysts believed that casinos were a sure bet, that gambling was recession proof, and that it was a vice people could not shake off even if money got tight. And so casino giant after casino giant started on mega projects that set to outdo each other and make glitzy Las Vegas, well, glitzier. 

This recession is changing several of those plans. And despite the retirees putting their life savings into slot machines for fun in Atlantic City, casinos are taking a hit. 

MGM Mirage, one of the biggest of them all, is trying to come up with funds amid a sharp downturn. The company, which is controlled by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, is hoping to raise money to meet debt payments and also to fund CityCenter, a troubled project it jointly owns with Dubai World, in Las Vegas.

Citi: No need for more aid

Richard ParsonsCitigroup, which has received $45 billion of U.S. government funds since October, may have had its fill of taxpayer money.

Citi’s chairman thinks the bank does not need any more capital injections from the government and is confident that it will remain in private hands.

“No, I think actually, particularly with the latest conversion … Citi is actually one of the better capitalized banks in the world,” Richard Parsons told Reuters. He also brushed aside any prospect of the U.S. government nationalizing the bank.

Credit crisis advantage?

RocheThe credit crisis may just be the leverage Roche needs in its bid for Genentech.

The Swiss drug maker went hostile with its bid to buy the 44 percent of Genentech it doesn’t already own. But in a rather unusual move, it has gone to shareholders with an offer that is actually lower than the $44 billion bid it initially made for the U.S. biotech group.

Investors now have a public tender offer at $86.50 per share in cash, valuing the deal at $42 billion, down from $89 per share earlier.

After the initial announcement in July, Genentech shares rose to a high of $99.05, but later fell back below the offer price as the credit crisis bit, giving Roche the leeway to lower its bid.

Plane talk

CitibankCiti scrapped plans to buy a $50 million corporate jet after it raised eyebrows all the way to the White House. Politicians called the order, which was made in 2005, wasteful. 

True, Citi has been propped up by taxpayers, swallowing up $45 billion of capital since October. Its market value is now only about $17 billion. And it has lost more than $28.5 billion in the last 15 months.

But how unusual is it for a company the size of Citi, once the world’s largest bank, to have a corporate jet? 

A trigger for more drug deals?

Jeff KindlerPfizer has taken the plunge, and others may follow.

The world’s largest drug maker is buying rival Wyeth for $68 billion in cash and stock to become even larger.  

Pfizer’s Jeff Kindler is content with swallowing Wyeth for now. He told CNBC the company has no plans to do any huge transactions in the near future.

But the merger could trigger a wave of consolidation in the cash-rich sector as big pharma looks to diversify revenues in the face of competition from generic-drug rivals, analysts say.

Pfizer: Dealing with Lipitor side-effects

Pfizer’s at it again. The world’s largest drugmaker by revenue has set its sights on rival Wyeth and the two are talking about a deal that could be valued at more than $60 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Pfizer was built in the last 10 years on two of the biggest deals in the sector — the purchase of rivals Warner Lambert and Pharmacia.

And another big deal would not come as a surprise. Some analysts and investors have made pleas to the company to make another acquisition to obtain products to prepare for an expected loss in earnings in 2011, when the patent on its flagship cholesterol drug Lipitor expires.