Unstructured Finance

Check Out Line: This Bud’s for you, NYSE

bud1Check out the return of the “BUD” stock trading symbol.

Anheuser-Busch InBev shares will start trading in New York on Wednesday as U.S.-listed shares, or American Depositary Receipts under the former Anheuser-Busch symbol, a nod to its Budweiser beer label. The return to the New York Stock Exchange comes 10 months after Belgium’s InBev acquired the iconic U.S. brewer and moved its primary stock listing to Belgium.

Anheuser-Busch InBev was formed late last year when InBev, the Belgian maker of Stella Artois and Beck’s, bought St. Louis-based Anheuser for $52 billion to create the world’s largest brewer. Since then, the company announced plans to open an office in New York and has begun reporting quarterly results in U.S. dollars, signaling a greater interest in the U.S. equity market, analysts said.

Investors can only hope the BUD shares will trade as well as Anheuser-Busch InBev shares in Europe, where they have more than tripled in value since late November.

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Blockbuster to close up to 960 stores by 2010-end

FEATURE-Beauty booms as Brazil consumers shrug off crisis

Why Did Tavern Fail? (New York Times)

Recession Dims Stars’ Style Power (Wall Street Journal)

Istithmar Vows to Support Barneys as Rumors Swirl (WWD, subscription required)

(Reuters photo)

Bye-bye cool tickers? DNA and BUD head for bin


Pity the guys who dreamt up two of Wall Street’s coolest tickers — DNA and BUD — both of which look set to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Genentech grabbed the three letters synonymous with biotechnology by being in on the ground floor of the gene revolution. Anheuser-Busch was lucky enough to have a beer brand known everywhere by one syllable. Now both look doomed. dna-global-logo.gif

Genentech faces a $43.7 billion bid from Roche for the 44 percent of the Californian biotech group that it doesn’t already own. Genentech is expected to succomb, albeit after a possibly sweetened offer. Anheuser has already agreed to a $52 billion takeover by InBev.

This Bud’s No Longer for Wall Street

budweiser1.jpgIs it Last Call for Wall Street at Anheuser-Busch?

On Anheuser-Busch’s conference call Wednesday to discuss second-quarter earnings, the tone was more like a wake than the tailgate parties of old.

Well, previous calls never really had galloping Clydesdalessinging frogs or a hard-partying Bull Terrier. But quarter after quarter, investors and analysts from both the ”buy” and ”sell” sides would still dial in after the close of New York trading for the latest color on beer sales.

Wednesday’s get-together — likely the second-to-last one before the brewer gets swallowed by Belgian brewer InBev – was different. 

Despite deal, Cubans may not crack open Budweisers soon

bucanero2.jpgAnheuser-Busch’s “Cuba defense” against a takeover by Belgium-based InBev may have gone flat after the Budweiser folks agreed to be bought out, but don’t expect to see America’s top-selling beers in Havana bars any time soon.  

InBev brews and sells Beck’s, Bucanero, Cristal and Mayabe beers in Cuba through a 50/50 joint venture with the Cuban government. Could Cubans now be one mambo step closer to cracking open a cold Bud on a hot Havana night? 

Not so fast, says Uncle Sam.

According to a U.S. embargo against Cuba “no products, technology, or services may be exported from the United States to Cuba, either directly or through third countries. This prohibition includes dealing in or assisting the sale of goods or commodities to or from Cuba, even if done entirely offshore.” 

This Bud’s for you

bud.jpgU.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch accepted a hopped-up $52 billion takeover bid from Belgium-based InBev. InBev agreed to pay $70 per share for the maker of Budweiser, up from its original unsolicited bid of $65 per share, both companies said on Monday. The improved offer marked a 27 percent premium to Anheuser’s record-high stock price in October 2002. The deal is expected to gain regulatory approval. It would be the largest in the industry and the third-biggest ever foreign takeover of a U.S. company. Now, let the naming begin. While not nearly as bouncy as Microhoo, the union does lend itself to some intriguing combinations. The company seems to be settling on Anheuser-Busch Inbev. ABI Brewing, or ABIB, could suggest beer drinkers need to protect their shirts. The company could certainly be forgiven for seeking something more mouth friendly. Some DealZone suggestions from reporters who have spent far too much time thinking about it: InBusch, AmBusch, InBever-Busch, AmBever, BudBev or BevBud, lending itself to BevBuddies and BuddyBev.

Spain’s Santander is buying British bank Alliance & Leicester for 1.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in an agreed deal that will bulk up its existing UK bank Abbey. Santander, Europe’s second-biggest bank after HSBC, has long been considered a potential buyer of A&L, but has been able to secure a knockdown price after a collapse in its target’s share price in the past year. Santander said it was offering 1 of its shares for every three A&L shares, plus a cash dividend of 18 pence per share. The deal values A&L stock at 317p, compared with a 12-month high of 1,170 pence. A&L shares soared 54 percent to 338 pence by 1000 GMT after Santander confirmed the deal, reflecting the prospect that a takeover battle could ensue.

GlaxoSmithKline could pay Swiss company Actelion up to 3.3 billion Swiss francs ($3.28 billion) to develop a promising insomnia drug in the largest biotech partnering deal. Glaxo, Europe’s biggest drugmaker, beat many of the world’s top pharmaceuticals companies to partner Actelion’s sleeping pill almorexant and the deal sent the Swiss biotech’s stock soaring nearly 10 percent. “The deal terms already allow significant value to be transferred to shareholders,” said Landsbanki Kepler analyst Denise Anderson. Glaxo, which like other big drugmakers is keen to snap up promising new medicines to bolster its pipeline, had been tipped as a likely partner for almorexant, currently in late-stage clinical development. But some analysts had questioned whether it would go for the deal as it has the only other similar drug in clinical development, on hold in mid-stage trials.

Check Out Line: Name that brew

bud.jpgCheck out: InBever-Busch? BudBever?
That hostile takeover stuff between InBev and Anheuser-Busch with the court fight and proxy battle and stuff? Looks like it was nothing a little more money can’t solve.

The two companies have begun friendly negotiations, a source told Reuters. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported that InBev has raised its offer by $5, to $70 a share, to try to cinch a friendly deal.

Some analysts have said that even $65 was something Anheuser-Busch shareholders would take. At $70, the discussions could be reduced more to things like what to call the company.

Deeper into the abyss

A man walks out of the headquarters of Freddie MacThe subprime crisis has come to this: The U.S. government is considering taking over mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if their funding problems worsen, the New York Times reported, citing people briefed on the matter. Fannie and Freddie, government-sponsored entities that have the implicit backing of Washington, would be placed into conservatorship, with shareholders left with little or nothing, and the losses on the $5 trillion in home loans they own or guarantee — what amounts to half of all U.S. mortgages — would be paid by U.S. taxpayers.

General Electric is set to sell its Japanese consumer finance operation to Shinsei Bank for 580 billion yen ($5.4 billion), people familiar with the matter said. The business includes a moneylender, Lake, as well as a credit card and housing loan operation. GE had previously said it was looking to sell Lake, but did not say anything about the entire Japanese consumer finance business.

How’s this for an about-face? Anheuser-Busch is in active talks to sell itself to InBev in a friendly deal, the New York Times said on its website, citing people briefed on the matter. Price seems to be a factor, with InBev seemingly open to raising its $65 per share offer, along with pressure from major shareholders like Warren Buffett. What will politicians like Sen. Claire McCaskill and presidential candidate Barack Obama say now that “America’s Beer” may be selling itself willingly?

InBev’s slammer

A police officer walks past the Chancery courthouse in Georgetown Delaware.InBev, seeking to avoid a lengthy courtroom battle in its takeover attempt of Anheuser-Busch, has asked a court to make a summary judgment on its suit over the removal of all 13 Anheuser board directors. Inbev had previously filed a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court seeking to confirm the right of Anheuser shareholders to remove the entire board without cause, and Anheuser has said it would challenge InBev’s claim. The court of public opinion may move more slowly than the one in Delaware in this case, as politicians weigh in about the potential tragedy of Budweiser becoming a little less American if the Dutch Belgian brewer’s $46.3 billion offer wins.

WPP Group, the world’s second-largest advertising company, made a hostile 1.08 billion pound ($2.13 billion) bid for Britain’s Taylor Nelson Sofres, challenging its agreed merger with GfK Holdings. TNS is the world’s third-biggest market research company with clients such as Procter & Gamble. The WPP offer has a significant amount of cash, so the lack of a premium to current prices may not bother TNS shareholders wanting to reduce exposure to the advertising environment, with the pervading frosty economic conditions. A source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday that Germany’s GfK was considering making a counter-offer for TNS with a co-investor to head off the WPP bid and safeguard its own deal.

Other deals of the day:

* Huron Consulting said it bought management consulting firm Stockamp & Associates for about $219 million in a cash and stock deal to expand its footprint in the hospital consulting space.

Cloaked in transparency

harry-potter.jpgSovereign wealth funds meet this week to uncloak any political motivations that might lurk behind their rich capital infusions. The talks are focused on devising a code of ethics to allay Western fears and could help create transparency. Alas, most of substance is being debated behind closed doors. It is being held in Singapore, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that transparency is not a particularly high priority. The funds, controlling an estimated $3 trillion in assets, are owned by national governments and often armed with cash piles from soaring oil prices and trade. They have sunk billions into Citigroup and UBS, which were reeling from the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market. Goldman Sachs estimates U.S. and European banks may need a further capital infusion of more than $200 billion.

It’s a good thing for Anheuser-Busch that Bud Light is so popular. If Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev manages to take over the company, it will probably put it on a serious diet as it aims to trim up to $1.4 billion of costs. Employees and union officials at InBev describe the tightest of budget controls: mobile phones taken back and returned only to employees who justified a need for one; new pens given out only in return for used ones; and an elevator at the global headquarters closed for several months. The elevator is back in use now, although signs in the lobby read: “Why not take the stairs?” InBev says many such measures, and notably larger water and energy conservation efforts, also serve sustainability targets and that its cost-saving push is simply one pillar of an overall strategy also focused on boosting beer volumes.

Shares in British retailer Marks & Spencer are up on market talk of possible bid interest in the retailer. Rival department stores owner Philip Green, who was linked with a stakebuild in M&S in January, was again mentioned as a possible suitor, traders said, but some attributed the bounce to expectations for upbeat news from an upcoming M&S annual general meeting. Boss Stuart Rose, lauded for reviving the landmark British retailer just a year ago, is battling to save his job after a big profit warning and bungled management changes.

Check Out Line: A Brewing Showdown

bud2.jpgCheck out things looking hostile in InBev’s bid for Anheuser-Busch.

InBev, spurned so far in its attempt to acquire the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light, filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would lead to Anheuser shareholders voting on the future of the U.S. company’s board.

The Belgian beer maker also unveiled its own proposed board that would include Adolphus Busch IV, an uncle of Anheuser‘s current chief executive. Makes you go Hmmm…

Also in the basket:

Oil drops below $142 a barrel as dollar gains

Jobs market not expected to recover soon

Coca-Cola agrees to settlement in shareholder lawsuit