Unstructured Finance

Flowers, TD also bid on BankUnited

BankUnitedFlorida’s BankUnited drew bids from two other groups besides the winning consortium of private equity powerhouses in the FDIC-run auction.¬†

The other two bidding groups included J.C. Flowers & Co and Toronto Dominion bank, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Regulators seized the troubled Florida lender last month and sold it to a consortium that includes Wilbur Ross’s WL Ross, Carlyle Group, Blackstone and Centerbridge Partners.

Private equity firms have increasingly turned their attention to banking as the number of troubled U.S. banks and thrifts increases, although BankUnited was not the first failed bank to be bought by private investors.

Hedge fund and private equity investors, including Flowers, bought the assets of failed U.S. mortgage lender IndyMac earlier this year, for example.

Aozora-Shinsei merger back on track

SHINSEI-AOZORA/SHARESHave two big Japanese lenders, backed by private equity, found a way to come up with a sensible merger plan? A merger between Shinsei Bank, nearly a third-owned by JC Flowers, and Aozora Bank, more than half-owned by Cerberus, is reported back on track after the Western firms cooled their jets on the deal last month, saying there was no strategic plan behind the tie-up.

Shares of both institutions have been on a tear since talk of a merger bubbled up last month, but are mere shadows of what they were earlier in the decade after their sale to private equity marked a fresh stab at rehabilitation in the Japanese banking industry. Just about the only thing going obviously well for the investments right now, aside from the merger bump, is the strength of the yen.

The banks plan to set up a holding firm in 2010 and merge a year or so later, the Nikkei Business Daily reported. JC Flowers and Cerberus will probably remain shareholders in the holding firm, according to the report, so this wouldn’t be a big cash-out for either.

auf Wiedersehen, Citibank?

citibank.jpgCitigroup is eyeing a break-up or sale of its business in Germany as part of a global reorganization, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters. Citi’s German unit, which makes most of its money from loans for everything from televisions to cars, contributed nearly 3 percent of the bank’s global pretax profit in 2006. Citi’s manager in Germany wrote to staff in March, saying the unit would not be sold, but he was replaced last week.

Lehman Brothers has been taking advantage of the Fed’s new borrowing window for investment banks, the Wall Street Journal reported, by using some of the same financial engineering methods that have brought so much chaos to the financial system. In a nutshell: Move $2.8 billion in unattractive debt into a new investment vehicle, get a AAA credit rating, and use as collateral to borrow much-needed cash from Uncle Sam. Fed officials had been worried that the new borrowing window might carry a stigma, but as it turns out, not so much.

U.S. buyout group J.C. Flowers is prepared to walk away from takeover target Friends Provident, frustrated at a lack of contact with the British insurer’s management. “There is no light at the end of the tunnel,” a source close to the matter told Reuters on Friday. Flowers has a regulatory deadline of April 30, by which time it must either make a firm takeover bid or walk away.