Unstructured Finance

Deals wrap: Microsoft acquires Skype for $8.5 billion

Microsoft plans to buy internet telephone network Skype for $8.5 billion, the biggest purchase ever for the world’s largest software company as it seeks to regain ground on growing rivals. The money-losing Skype has 145 million users on average each month and has gained favor among small business users. The deal would also give Microsoft a foothold in the potentially lucrative video-conferencing market. Skype, which is minority owned by eBay, allows people to make calls at no charge but also offers some paid features.

This article in the Guardian by Graeme Wearden asked telecoms analysts what they think about the Microsoft-Skype deal.

Reuters columnist Felix Salmon gives his opinion on how being public eases acquisitions for companies, using the Microsoft-Skype deal and Facebook’s earlier interest in Skype as an example. Salmon writes that had Facebook been public, it could have snapped up Skype itself instead of having Microsoft buy it to keep it out of Google’s hands.

Deutsche Boerse’s works council is refusing to back a merger proposal with NYSE Euronext, according to two people familiar with the company’s thinking. The exchange is close to releasing a formal statement on behalf of the management and supervisory board, a formal part of German corporate governance in a takeover situation.

Buyout firms Blackstone and KKR are weighing up offers for France Telecom’s stake in Mobistar, sources familiar with the situation said. The deal could value Belgium-based Mobistar at more than 3 billion euros ($4.3 billion).

Deals wrap: Dealmakers play it safe

USA/Bankers taking part in the Reuters Global M&A Summit this week told correspondents Quentin Webb and Victoria Howley that despite a recent pickup in global dealmaking, economic fragility, natural disaster and political tumult in the Middle East are hurting corporate confidence and holding back a more robust M&A recovery.

“A new guard of private equity bosses has emerged at the top of the industry, striving to make their business more open before investors and policy makers, and alter preconceptions of this at times secretive industry,” writes Reuters private equity reporter Simon Meads.

Pfizer said it struck a deal to sell its Capsugel unit, the world’s largest maker of hard capsules, to private equity firm KKR & Co for nearly $2.38 billion.

Deals wrap: GM’s market splash

A GMC vehicle is seen parked in front of a trader standing outside of the New York Stock Exchange November 18, 2010.REUTERS/Shannon StapletonGeneral Motors has raised billions of dollars in its IPO, but big investors still have plenty of cash on hand to plow into other new stock issues — if they have merit.

General Motors’ swift journey from dying company to blockbuster IPO is a remarkable story, which the Democrats received little political credit for.

One of the first signs General Motors was driving toward a record-setting IPO with booming demand from investors came from an unlikely indicator: a sudden shortage of chocolate mousse at an investor meeting.

Deals wrap: Cracking down on hostile bids

Demonstrators protest near Britain's Houses of Parliament in central London February 2, 2010.   REUTERS/Toby Melville “Britain’s takeover watchdog has unveiled proposals to make hostile bids harder but stopped short of endorsing the most radical proposals floated following the controversial takeover of Cadbury by Kraft Foods,” writes Quentin Webb. *View article

The Canadian province of Saskatchewan dismissed the idea that a hostile offer from BHP Billiton for Potash Corp would bring net benefits. *View article

“Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts is hiring part of Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s proprietary trading team, which is being shut down due to new restrictions on such trading,” write Steve Eder and Megan Davies. *View article

Deal wrap: Talking defense

Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets fly in formation with a Boeing 707–320 aerial refueling tanker during a ceremony for newly graduated pilots at the Hatzerim Air Base, June 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner Boeing defense chief Dennis Muilenburg startled many this week when he told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit he would not rule out the possibility of a large-scale merger. Is he sending up a trial balloon to gauge the Pentagon’s reaction? *View article *Read more at the Aerospace and Defense Summit

Two of the world’s biggest private equity firms, KKR and TPG, are potentially interested in Foster’s wine business, but they are not currently working on rival bids, sources told Reuters.  Earlier this week Foster’s rejected a $2.5 billion offer for its wine business as too cheap. *View article

The SEC is investigating investment advisory firms that channel investors’ money into hedge funds, the Wall Street Journal reported. *View WSJ article

Deals wrap: ICBC’s offer

A company logo of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is seen outside one of its branches in Beijing June 18, 2010.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip  Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, the world’s most valuable bank, says it will pay shareholders of its Hong Kong arm a 27 percent premium to take it private, as part of an effort to expand its presence there. *View article

GM is ratcheting up the PR in advance of an IPO, and the NYT takes a look at the mechanics of the promotion. *View NYT article

Who owns the “Sky” in “Skype”? *View paidContent article

peHUB is live-blogging KKR Earnings Call. *View peHUB article

Deals wrap: Welcome to the Big Board KKR

Signs can be seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 9, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson Will Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co’s listing on the Big Board bring a big yawn or release pent-up investor demand for the iconic private equity firm? It could be a bellwether for rivals looking to follow suit. *  View articleView factbox

Agricultural Bank of China’s $19 billion IPO made a lackluster debut in Shanghai, weighing on the market and underscoring the difficulty other Chinese banks will face tapping investors for billions more. * View ArticleView newsmaker

U.S. nutritional supplements maker NBTY said it agreed to be bought by Carlyle Group for $3.8 billion in one of the biggest private equity deals so far this year. The buyout underscores a revival in private equity deals following the credit crisis. *  View article

KKR’s imagination

Nobody can question Eastman Kodak‘s intention in raising some $700 million. Getting a commitment from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to buy up to $400 million of its debt is also a perfectly logical step for the old-economy stalwart as it lumbers into the digital age. What KKR is thinking is another matter.

KKR says the investment reflects its belief in Kodak’s strategy. They’re also getting warrants in Kodak to purchase up to 53 million shares of its common stock. The Wall Street Journal says KKR could end up owning close to 20 percent of the company.

The 24/7 Wall St blog notes that the fall in Kodak’s share price following the news shows the market isn’t blindly convinced of KKR’s intelligence. But Kodak’s bonds got a boost, if for no other reason than there’s a buyer out there.

Private equity asks for a top-up

cashA number of private equity firms in Europe are going back to investors for more money to fix over-extended balance sheets and fund add-on acquisitions for companies in their portfolio.

Private equity’s world has turned upside down since the start of the credit crisis. All the stats show that deal flow has dropped off a cliff and those deals that have got done are smaller and the equity cheques larger. At the same time,  restructuring situations are mounting as firms face the uneviable choice of injecting more equity or face losing their investments to the banks.

The upshot is that buyout funds raised in rosier times are no longer suited to the current environment, if indeed they have any capital left at all.