Unstructured Finance

M&A wrap: Amazon, Nokia, Microsoft weighed RIM bids

Research In Motion has turned down takeover overtures from Amazon.com and other potential buyers because the BlackBerry maker prefers to fix its problems on its own, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Amazon hired an investment bank this summer to review a potential merger with RIM, but it did not make a formal offer, said one of the sources. It is not clear whether informal discussions between Amazon and RIM ever led to specific price talk.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft and Nokia have discussed the idea of a joint bid for RIM, but the status of those talks remains unclear.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, is retreating from Japan’s private banking market, selling a business that serves the wealthy to Credit Suisse, which is raising its profile in the world’s second-largest market for millionaires.

Tokio Marine said it will buy U.S. insurer Delphi Financial Group for $2.7 billion and is eying other acquisition targets, as Japan’s No.2 property-casualty insurer looks to expand outside its mature home market and diversify geographic risks.

Dozens of black-suited investigators, marching double-file, raided the office building of three small Olympus Corp subsidiaries Wednesday, one of 20 sites searched in a probe of a $1.7 billion accounting scandal that threatens the once-proud Japanese medical device maker’s survival.

A yen for U.S. insurers

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The cheap dollar is helping to tease more investment out of a notoriously shy foreign investment pool – Japan’s insurance industry. In what would be the largest acquisition by a Japanese financial firm in the U.S., Tokio Marine said it plans to buy non-life insurer Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp for about $4.7 billion. Tokio Marine is Japan’s largest non-life insurer, and has offered a 73 percent premium to Philadelphia Consolidated investors. Meanwhile, Nippon Life Insurance said it would take a 5 percent stake in U.S. fund and index group Russell Investments. Over the past year, the dollar is down more than 10 percent against the yen, though it is well off lows hit in early March. Japanese insurers, which earn 80 percent of their profit at home, have long been under pressure to diversify abroad to deal with an aging population and slow growth at home.

Shares in British lender HBOS rose more than 12 percent, lifted by market talk of bid interest from Spanish rival BBVA and a broad recovery across the financial sector, traders said. Britain’s largest mortgage lender has underperformed the battered sector in the run-up to its 4 billion pound ($8 billion) rights issue, and concerns about the overhang effect have also weighed, as just 8.3 percent of the shares were taken up. A deal to take on HBOS would be a radical departure for BBVA, Spain’s second-largest bank, which has focused its expansion on emerging markets in Latin America and China and in the southern United States.

Other deals of the day:

* British energy company Centrica is doubling its interest in Belgian generation and supply company SPE SA to 51 percent for 515 million euros ($820 million), overturning a deal by France’s EDF to buy the stake.

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