Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A New Year's Eve party at Bwin

It's been a volatile morning for shares in Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. Last night, the online gaining group released a pre-close trading update that at first glance looked like a bit of a stinker of a profit warning. Here is link to the statement: http://www.investegate.co.uk/bwin-party-digital--bpty-/rns/pre-close-trading-update/201412301809579793A/ 

The trading update comes as Bwin has been talking to "third parties" about "consolidation" and "business combinations". Indeed, Geoff Foster says in his Daily Mail market report today that gaming software company Playtech is on the verge of winning the Bwin auction with a 140p a share/£1.2 billion offer.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The top FTSE 100 performer in 2014 is...

Dixons Carphone!

According to Thomson Reuters, the electrical goods retailer has risen by about 70pc this year and is on course to finish 2014 as the top performing FTSE 100 stock.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The "disrupters"

Little old Betaville likes to think of itself as a bit cheeky, troublesome and unruly, so I particularly enjoyed the article in today's Financial Times about the "disrupters".

Here is a link to the piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b9677026-8b6d-11e4-ae73-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Weekend review

It's always tricky at this time of the year to rustle up decent jackanories but my old colleague Graham, "Ruddy", Ruddick hasn't done too badly this weekend.

Graham, who works at The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, got a decent line from his interview with Andy Clarke, the chief executive of Asda, about potential consolidation in Britain's ailing supermarket sector.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

It's cheeky bid time - part 2

Alistair Osborne's brilliant column this morning was alluding to was I suggesting in yesterday's post about Afren although I have to admit his missive was somewhat more sophisticated, detailed and eloquent than mine. If you haven't read Alistair's column, here is a link to it: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/alistairosborne/article4305158.ece

The one thing Alistair - a former colleague/boss of mine during my time at The Daily Telegraph - didn't mention was that Heritage Oil may be one of the parties keen on coming up with a rival bid for Afren following Seplat's approach.

Monday, 22 December 2014

It's cheeky bid time

The boys over at FT Alphaville might have knocked off until the New Year but don't worry, little old Betaville will keep on going until 2015.

First, let's address this rather cheeky bid from for Afren from Seplat, which I have to admit I had never heard of until this morning.

Friday, 19 December 2014

A Quindell snippet

I hear Quindell's board met this afternoon to discuss some of the findings of PricewaterouseCoopers's "independent review" into the beleaguered company's claims processing business.

For readers that don't recall, click on the link to this Financial Times story about the PwC review: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/61ad7a76-7eaf-11e4-a828-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Ltzlu99D

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Another FT deal scoop

The Financial Times is really on fire at the moment. Following yesterday's scoop about a takeover bid for Lloyd's of London insurer Catlin the venerable newspaper this afternoon broke the story about the owner of British Airways considering a 1.1 billion Euro offer for Aer Lingus. Here is a link to that piece:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c6fa70fe-86c1-11e4-8a51-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Fc6fa70fe-86c1-11e4-8a51-00144feabdc0.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&siteedition=uk&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fhome%2Fuk#axzz3Ltzlu99D

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Time for a pay rise, Ed?

Hat tip to Bryce Elder, the stock market reporter over at the Financial Times.

Bryce led on rumours about a bid for Catlin in his market report today and - surprise, surprise - the Lloyd's of London insurer later confirmed it had received a £2.6 billion approach from US-listed XL Group. Here is a link to a confirmation of Bryce's top tale: http://www.investegate.co.uk/Index.aspx?searchtype=2&words=Catlin

Hellman & Friedman said to eye sale or float of Hostel World

I see from today's newspaper coverage there were a whole bunch of suitors for Lastminute.com, the online travel agent that was the icon of the dot com boom and bust in the late 90s/early noughties.

According to the Financial Times, Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Ctrip, eDreams and Oakley Capital were all keen on Lastminute.com. Here is a link to the FT piece:

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Game, set and match for Repsol?

Wow - Talisman Energy has leapt over 45pc in early trade after agreeing to a knockout $8.3 billion offer from Spain's Repsol.

The Spaniards must have been anxious to secure a deal with Talisman as they are paying $8 a share, which is considered by some market participants to be a much higher-than-expected offer price.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Parky link

Gary Parkinson, the stock market reporter over at The Times, is back on top form with a brilliant and amusing column on bonuses.

Here is a link to Parky's piece:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/tradesecrets/article4297079.ece

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A sort of Sunday review

There has been lots of coverage in the last few days about Repsol's renewed interest in buying the ailing Canadian oil company Talisman Energy for up to $8 billion. Here is a link to a Financial Times piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6c74867e-8202-11e4-a9bb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Ltzlu99D

If readers are casting about for other potential buyers of Talisman, I will remind you I wrote this piece for The Sunday Times back in October:

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/business/article1469913.ece

Friday, 12 December 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about Severn Trent, Pharma deals and...Quindell

The festive season is already starting to take its toll on me but I dragged myself into Tip TV this morning. Here is a link to today's clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/mergers-acquisitions/

UPDATE: Apologies. I think I said in today's Tip TV clip that I wrote about Severn Trent for dealReporter in February 2014 but it was actually published in late January.  

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Former Tesco executive leaves Sun European - where to next?

Much of today's coverage in the British newspaper business sections is focused on Tesco's terrible problems so I thought would post a piece linked to the retailer even if that connection is pretty tenuous.

I hear from good sources Tim Mason, the former head of Tesco's Fresh & Easy division in the US, has effectively left private equity firm Sun European Partners, which specialises in buying struggling retailers.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Rio line up

Here is an interesting snippet on the Rio Tinto/Glencore situation.

I hear from top sources that Rio Tinto has retained Simon Robey's M&A advisory boutique Robey Warshaw alongside its corporate brokers and other financial advisers to work on "strategic" matters. Undoubtedly, Robey Warshaw will be providing the Rio board with advice on how to defend themselves from Glasenberg and Glencore, which earlier this year made a multi-billion dollar takeover approach for its rival.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Weekend review on Shire, Merck, Cubist, Crystal Amber and J Sainsbury

Hat tip to David Gelles of The New York Times for landing the scoop about US drugs giant Merck talking to Cubist Pharmaceuticals about a takeover deal of more than $7 billion.

Here is a link to David's piece: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/12/05/merck-in-talks-to-acquire-drug-maker-cubist-for-more-than-7-billion/?_r=0

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A revealing question: is Permira also punting on Bwin?

Apologies for a headline that posits a question. The problem is Betaville's best sources are certain Permira is the private equity firm that is taking a look at Bwin.party Digital Entertainment. However, people familiar with the private equity firm have tried to pour cold water on the tale, denying the buy-out shop has any interest in the online gaming company. Talk about awkward.

A quick recap for readers unfamiliar with this particular situation: Bwin confirmed last month it is in talks with various unnamed parties about a potential deal and Deutsche Bank is managing the strategic review.

Vodafone, Vodafone - part 2

There appear to be some pretty divergent views within the financial media about what mega deal Vodafone is planning to do next.

Last Friday Bloomberg reported that Vodafone was looking at a $130 billion merger with Jon Malone's Liberty Global: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-28/vodafone-said-to-eye-takeover-of-malone-s-liberty-global.html

This morning, Christopher Williams of The Daily Telegraph seems to be reporting the exact opposite: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/telecoms/11270650/Vodafone-chief-denies-bid-for-Virgin-Media-owner-Liberty-Global.html

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Chinese said to be circling Premier League - again - Part 3

I see Dalian Wanda, the multi-billion dollar Chinese conglomerate, is still getting a lot of attention in the British newspaper business pages - this time for getting into pig farming and pork production. Here is a link to a Financial Times piece on the topic: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a3571d66-7a26-11e4-8958-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3KpuRbCmr

It won't be long before Wang Jianlin - the billionaire who controls Dalian Wanda - adds a European football club, possibly one from the Premier League, to Dalian Wanda's eclectic portfolio of businesses.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Chinese said to be circling Premier League - again - part 2

I see most of today's broadsheet newspaper business sections have given Dalian Wanda's interest in buying a stake in Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, the US studio behind "The Hunger Games", a lot of space and attention.

The other asset Dalian, led by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, is interested in buying is a European football club, possibly one in the British Premier League. Here is a link my previous article on the topic: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/chinese-said-to-be-circling-premier.html

Monday, 1 December 2014

Playtech/Sagi said to be punting on Bwin

Here is an interesting snippet on a live M&A situation.

I hear from excellent sources that Playtech, the gaming software development company, and its largest shareholder, the Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi, are taking a good hard look at Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, the online betting group.

Two Betaville scoops confirmed on one Winter's morning

Here is something to cheer you up on a cold, grey Monday morning - a couple of my Betaville """"""exclusive""""" jackanories have just been confirmed.  

Kier Group said in a statement this morning via the UK regulatory news service that:

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Banks edge closer to £400 million Mouchel sale; Kier in the running

It sounds like the Mouchel sale I was talking about on Tip TV yesterday morning is getting closer to completion.

Some of my best sources got in touch after yesterday's session on Tip TV. They believe Mouchel and its advisers at NM Rothschild are now in very serious/advanced discussions about a deal with at least one buyer, and I think the purchaser could very well be Kier Group.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Vodafone, Vodafone

There appears to be battle between Bloomberg and the Financial Times to break stories about what mega-deal Vodafone might be about to do next.

The Financial Times reported an hour ago that: http://www.ft.com/fastft/243422

Back on Tip TV talking about Kier Group - again - Friends Life and the telecoms sector

In case you missed it, here is my Tip TV clip from this morning's session.

http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/mergers-and-acquisitions/

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Permira, Bridgepoint said to weigh £500 million bids for Big Bus Tours - part 2

In case you are following the Big Bus Tours auction in detail, I hear from good sources four bidders have been shortlisted to participate in the sale process.

Those bidders are private equity firms Permira, Bridgepoint, Advent International and Canadian pension fund Omers.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Dixons Carphone overtakes some of Britain's biggest listed retailers in market capitalisation

Oh look - as of tonight's market close, Dixons Carphone is now larger than both J Sainsbury and WM Morrison, two of Britain's largest supermarket groups.

Dixons Carphone's shares have come a long way since I revealed back in February on little old Betaville that FTSE 250 companies Carphone Warehouse and Dixons Retail were in serious merger talks.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Rule 2.8 e

I have to admit I was a little bit surprised to see reports this week claiming America's Stryker Corporation is "discussing the financing" of a multi-billion pound acquisition of orthopaedics maker Smith & Nephew.

For readers that don't recall, the Financial Times revealed in May that Stryker was looking at buying London-listed Smith & Nephew. However, once the US-based company was outed, it did an about turn and restricted itself from making an offer for six months.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Permira, Bridgepoint said to weigh £500 million bids for Big Bus Tours

Wow - the UK M&A market has suddenly roared back into life. And to think last Thursday I was on Tip TV noting how quiet it was in the British dealmaking scene for this time of year.

A few days later it emerged insurance giant Aviva is in advanced talks to buy Friends Life for over £5 billion (multiple hat tips to Kleinman of Sky News, Neil Hume at the Financial Times and Geoff Foster over at the Daily Mail for smoking out this deal). BT, meanwhile, announced this morning that it is looking at purchasing either O2 or EE. I guess that will probably be the last time I ever say it is "quiet" in UK M&A (yes, I realise I have used this joke twice in the last fortnight).

Friday, 21 November 2014

Chinese merchant bank zooms into Formula One

This is rather intriguing. Click on the link below and you will see that Caterham, the Formula One team that recently found itself in financial difficulty, has found a new sponsor in North Square Blue Oak and is set to race in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.

https://files.nsbo.com/public.php?service=files&t=9c01a967492e855a1abf12edece3126e

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about Kier Group, big US deals and BP

Nick Batsford - aka Moose - very kindly asked me back onto Tip TV to talk about M&A. As usual, it was great fun and also a great honour - I preceded veteran City commentators such as Panmure Gordon's David Buik.  

Here is a link to today's clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/ma-ben-harrington-betaville-blogspot/ 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Another US 'vulture' fund circles Stemcor

Here is an interesting snippet I picked up the Stemcor restructuring situation I wrote about in The Sunday Times last weekend.

I hear from good sources that Monarch Alternative Capital, a US fund that specialises in buying distressed loans (also dubbed by some news outlets as a 'vulture' fund), has built up a sizeable position in Stemcor's debt.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Microchip finally rules itself out for CSR...

It's game over for investors that were betting on a potential counter bid from US group Microchip Technology for London-listed CSR.

This morning the US company said it will not proceed with making an offer for CSR after having approached the FTSE 250 company back in August. Here is a link to Microchip's statement: http://www.investegate.co.uk/microchip-technology/rns/statement-re-rule-2-8-no-intention-to-bid-csr-plc/201411170700041419X/

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Never say its quiet...

Typical. I mentioned it was unusually quiet in the UK corporate dealmaking scene in a post this morning and a couple of hours later my rivals unearth a cracking scoop.

Anyway, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment confirmed at lunchtime that it has entered into talks with companies interested in buying, or merging with, the online gaining group.

Chinese said to be circling Premier League - again..

It's unusually quiet in the UK corporate dealmaking scene so I thought I would take a look at a story in another sector I have a profound interest in: Premier League football.

I picked up a snippet doing the rounds last week that Dalian Wanda, the Chinese real estate company controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, may have rekindled its interest in buying a Premier League football club.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Sunday review on a Monday...

Tucked away in the middle of Oliver Shah's story on J Sainsbury in The Sunday Times this weekend was quite an interesting nugget of information that appears to have been overlooked by the market.

Yesterday, Oliver revealed within the body of his news article on J Sainsbury that Crystal Amber, the activist investor run by Richard Bernstein, has been looking at the supermarket group with a view to advising a large US fund on carrying out an activist campaign involving the company.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A man called Klein

I have been ruminating on last week's piece in the Companies section of the Financial Times on the uber rainmaker Michael Klein. In case you missed it, here is a link to the piece by the excellent Daniel Schafer: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/67a9233e-5dc2-11e4-897f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3HeCYpzDL

Schafer unearthed some extremely interesting history and quotes about Klein, who hit the headlines for supposedly advising on the $41 billion merger of Glencore and Xstrata as a one man band. Nice work if you get it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Blue is the colour for a red rainmaker

Looking over last week's coverage of Christian Purslow's appointment as the new commercial boss of Chelsea FC it struck me that little has been made of the former City dealmaker's past career in the Square Mile and what that might mean for the Premier League club.

I remember Purslow from when he was at private equity firm Mid Ocean Partners, doing deals such as the £150m leveraged buy-out of LA Fitness. Prior to Mid Ocean, Purslow worked as a high-flying investment banker at Schroders and Credit Suisse.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Another cracker from Parky

I know I give Parky's trade secrets column in The Times a lot of airtime on Betaville but I just can't help doing it again this morning as his latest missive is absolutely hilarious, spot on and incredibly well written.

In case you haven't had a chance to look at Gary Parkinson's column, here is a link to it: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/tradesecrets/article4255469.ece

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Fancy that - ENRC wins latest tussle with Sir Paul Judge - part 2

My court mole has been back in touch after having a bit of time to look over Mrs Justice Swift's judgement on whether the row between Sir Paul Judge and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation should proceed to trial.

For readers that don't recall, Sir Paul was trying to get the courts to strike out some claims made against him for allegedly leaking board level information at ENRC, which was once listed on the FTSE 100 index. Here is a link to an Evening Standard piece on the topic:

Friday, 31 October 2014

Fancy that - ENRC wins latest tussle with Sir Paul Judge

Ping - an email arrives from my court mole with some fresh information on the ongoing row between Sir Paul Judge and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation.

Sir Paul appears to have lost this latest skirmish after Mrs Justice Swift refused to strike out some claims made against him by ENRC, which used to be listed on the FTSE 100 index.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Hunting for Foxtons - part 2

Hat tip Harriet Dennys, the City diarist over at The Daily Telegraph, for tracking down Jon Hunt's spokesman and getting him/her to provide some sort of comment on the recent speculation the founder of Foxtons may be interested in buying the estate agency back of the public markets.

As Harriet points out today, a spokesman for the former Army officer refused to deny the takeover talk. Here is a link to Harriet's column:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fancy that - Top Right Group announces acquisition of Money 20/20

Good to see Top Right Group - the digital publishing and events company backed by Apax and the Guardian Media Group - announce the acquisition of conference organiser Money 20/20 this morning. Here is a link to the press release: http://www.topright-group.com/news/i2i-events-group-continues-its-international-expansion-acquisition-and-multi-year-long-term-par 

Loyal Betavillers will recall I published a piece - http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/top-right-group-said-to-be-close-to.html - last week hinting Top Right Group was close to a major acquisition.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Hunting for Foxtons

If you are interested in the fate of Foxtons, the London estate agent everybody loves to hate, then Martin Waller's commentary column in The Times today is definitely worth a read.

In today's business comment, the veteran writer notes speculation that Jon Hunt - the founder of the estate agency who sold the business at the top of the London property market in 2007 to private equity investor BC Partners - may be interested in buying the company back.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Rigby returns to the fray

Congratulations to Roger Bootle and Peter Rigby.

On Friday, Bootle, the top City economist, finally got round to completing a deal to sell a 35pc stake in the economics consultancy to Lloyds Development Capital. As part of that deal, Peter Rigby, the former chief executive of Informa, makes his return to business-to-business publishing industry by becoming a director of Capital Economics.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Fancy that - ENRC chalks up a win against lawyers in court

There is plenty of coverage this morning about the court case involving Dechert and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, the mining company that used to be listed on the FTSE 100 index.

Here is a link to Financial Times piece on the topic: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a38a8140-5b6f-11e4-b68a-00144feab7de.html#axzz3GyEzZleG

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Top Right Group said to be close to multi-million pound exhibitions deal

Media types might interested to hear that Top Right Group, the company formerly known as Emap, is closing in on a decent-sized events and exhibition deal.

I understand Top Right - which is owned by private equity firm Apax and the Guardian Media Group - is about a month or so away from buying an exhibitions business that would take the group's i2i division into new sectors and new countries.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The missing skyscraper story rumbles on...

Ping - an email arrives from a new reader.

It contains a picture of chap called Mr Seamas Daly, an Irish businessman who founded a printing company called Photo Images Ltd. He is picketing outside a law firm based in Dublin, Ireland.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ferrovial consortium said to be closing in on £1 billion airports deal - part 2

Regular readers shouldn't be surprised to learn that the owners of Heathrow have just sold Aberdeen, Southampton and Glasgow airports to a consortium comprising Spain's Ferrovial and Macquarie for £1 billion.

That's because little old Betaville reported on Tuesday the deal was likely to be formally announced by the end of this week.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Paulson on Abbvie decision to ditch Shire deal

John Paulson's fund is clearly not happy about Abbvie's decision to examine backing out of the Shire deal. Here is what Paulson, who is a big shareholder in both Abbvie and Shire, has just told Bloomberg:

"We believe this transaction  creates enormous value for Abbvie shareholders. The combination is both strategic and accretive regardless of the tax considerations. As a large Abbvie shareholder we hope the  Abbvie Board reaffirms its commitment to the transaction after its review’’: 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ferrovial consortium said to be closing in on £1 billion airports deal

Here is an interesting snippet on the sale of three airports by Heathrow Airport Holdings.

I have been told that the consortium comprising Spain's Ferrovial, Australia's Macquarie and Singapore fund GIC are close to finalising the £1 billion acquisition of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about GlenTinto, CSR and Microchip

Great to be invited back on Tip TV with hosts Moose and Zac.

Always a pleasure to chew the M&A market cud with these market veterans. Here is a link to today's show in case you missed it this morning: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/catch-up-on-ma-synergy-healthcare-ma-movement-today-with-ben-harrington-betaville-blogspot-13-10-2014/

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Pasta and mining

I must visit Santini more often.

Back in the days when I worked for The Daily Telegraph, it used to be one of my regular lunching spots as it is (literally) a stones throw away from the Telegraph offices in Victoria/Belgravia. It was also great place for people watching, as you would often see some of the City grandees, bankers and hedge managers dining at the restaurant.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sir Paul Judge: "curious conversations"

Interesting piece in the Financial Times today on the ongoing dust up between Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and Sir Paul Judge, the company's former non-executive director and City grandee. 

For readers that don't recall, ENRC is suing Sir Paul for allegedly leaking stories to the media when he was a £125,000 a year non-executive director. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Village gossip - has Bootle called off £100m sale of Capital Economics?

What has happened to strategic review of Capital Economics, the economics consultancy founded by well-known economist and Daily Telegraph commentator Roger Bootle?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

When "old" news becomes new news...

Hat tip to the Bloomberg M&A reporting team for smoking out Glencore's approach to Rio Tinto about a $160 billion merger.

For anybody who hasn't been following closely, Bloomberg revealed yesterday that a few weeks ago mining giant Glencore approached Chinalco, one of Rio Tinto's largest shareholders, to gauge the state-backed company's interest in whether it would like to see to two mining groups combine.

Whimper...or not - part 2

I see Hewlett-Packard yesterday indicated that it is considering further dealmaking after confirming its demerger plans.

According to the venerable Financial Times, Cathie Lesjak , chief financial officer, said HP has material non-public information that is "not expected to be resolved before the end of Q4". Analysts interpreted this "information" as a potential acquisition, according to the Financial Times. Here is a link the Financial Times article: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fddedbcc-4d6f-11e4-9683-00144feab7de.html#slide0

Monday, 6 October 2014

Pub gossip - part 5

Scribblers round at Goldman Sachs last Friday published a particularly bearish note on Marston's, the FTSE 250 pub company, and reiterated the shares are a "conviction sell". Ouch.

Basically, the Goldman analyst argues Martson's is slightly stuck between a rock and hard place because it needs to throw money at its pubs to reposition its estate into larger food-led outlets but can't do this as it also needs to "de-lever" its balance sheet.

Pizzas and burgers

Old Russell Chambers got a mention in Dominic Walsh's diary column in The Times last Friday.

For readers that don't know, Russell is a Credit Suisse banker who became well-known for lending the former PM, Tony Blair, a pair of swim shorts during a holiday on the financier's boat in Barbados. Chambers was subsequently dubbed "Tony Blair's favourite banker".

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Lord Mayor setback for Sir Paul

Interesting to see that former Kleinwort Benson banker Alan Yarrow was earlier this week elected to be the new Lord Mayor of London.

Last time I checked, Sir Paul Judge was one of the leading candidates to become Lord Mayor. Here is a link to a Daily Mail article on the topic: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2514669/City-London-mayor-hopeful-Sir-Paul-Judge-accuses-ENRC-trying-entrap-him.html

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Top Deutsche Bank dealmaker predicts another "leg to this upcycle"

I was expecting dealmaking the UK to roar back into life after Summer. But it's unusually quiet in the UK M&A market at the moment, with only just a couple of mid-market deals knocking around, such as Greene King's £700m bid for Spirit.

Henrik Aslaken, though, is still reasonably bullish about dealmaking. The head of M&A at Deutsche Bank just told the Financial Times: "we haven't seen the hubris in the boardroom yet, with no outsized megadeal being announced. So it feels like there is another leg to this upcycle."

Monday, 29 September 2014

Microchip Technology appoints...nobody, apparently

I have spent the last few weeks trying to find out which investment bank has been advising Microchip  Technology on its approach for CSR, the London-listed chipmaker. So far, I haven't turned up with anything.

Anyway, it turns out there might be a good reason why I haven't managed to find out (apart from being a rubbish journalist). According to some sources following this situation, Microchip hasn't been using a financial adviser since the negotiations began.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Supermarket sweep

Mike Ashley's multi-million pound punt on Tesco has certainly caused a stir in the London market this morning.

Ashley is a born trader and maverick entrepreneur and I would certainly be wary of betting against him. However, let's not forget that some of the sharpest "professional" investors in global stock markets have already this year taken substantial positions in listed British supermarkets and, so far, it doesn't appear (I say "appear" as these positions may have been hedged) to have been a good trade.

German humour

Alistair Osborne's business comment column in The Times today is well worth read. Osborne is an acerbic writer and professional wind up merchant who I used to work with at The Daily Telegraph. His comment on Rocket Internet's IPO is particularly amusing. Here is a link to it:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/alistairosborne/article4217149.ece

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Pub gossip - part 4

It's a bit late in the day but just a quick note to congratulate Bryce Elder, the stock market reporter over at the Financial Times, on yesterday's scoop about Greene King's £700m takeover approach for rival Spirit. Here is a link to Bryce's piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cb3478c6-4338-11e4-be3f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3EAr0HkhD

Dom Walsh over at The Times also did an excellent follow piece with a comprehensive list of counter bidders for Spirit, including Stonegate and Marston's. However, from what I am hearing I'm not sure Marston's is in the financial position to launch a bid for Spirit.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hikma Pharmaceuticals eyes $1 billion purchase of CorePharma

I realise most of the dealmaking community is currently focused on the risk that some large pharmaceutical deals may collapse. But I have stumbled across a potential pharmaceutical deal that is unlikely to be affected by the US government's attempt to clamp down on corporate "tax inversions".

I have been told by reliable sources that FTSE 250-listed Hikma Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures branded and non-branded generic pharmaceutical products, has been looking at buying US-based CorePharma for up to $1 billion.

Monday, 22 September 2014

It's not just Parky...

Gary Parkinson has written another cracking 'Trade Secrets' column in The Times this morning and here is a link to it: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/tradesecrets/article4213584.ece

But this week Gary isn't the only reporter over at The Times to have delivered a beautifully crafted piece of prose. Dominic Walsh has written an excellent profile on Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, the heiress of the Dutch brewing giant.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Performing - part 2

It looks like that rather large block trade in Perform shares from earlier in the week was nothing more than an institutional seller exiting to a bunch of risk arbitrageurs (hedge funds that bet on takeover bids).

In case you forgot, here is a link to the piece I did earlier in the week:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Whimper...or not

Well, it looks like my foray into reporting on US cloud computing deals has ended with a bit of whimper.

Rackspace said yesterday that it decided against pursing a sale of the business after receiving several approaches - I am presuming at least one those approaches came from CenturyLink and possibly even Hewlett-Packard.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Performing

A rather large line of Perform stock - over 40 million shares - changed hands in almost one go at the close of the London market this evening. Investec is thought to have done a lot of the business (lucky them).

I'm not quite sure what the implications are of this share sale but it certainly sounds like something is cooking. For readers that don't recall, sports media company Perform has received a 260p a share/£700 million takeover approach from its largest shareholder, the US/Ukranian billionaire tycoon Len Blavatnik.

Monday, 15 September 2014

CenturyLink said to have lined up financing for Rackspace; Hewlett-Packard also rumoured to be interested

Here's an interesting snippet about a fairly chunky US technology deal. I hear from excellent sources  CenturyLink, a landline phone service provider, has tapped up some US banks for a $6 billion financing package so that it can purchase cloud-computing services company Rackspace Hosting.

Rackspace specialises in providing cloud-computing services and, according to Bloomberg, hired Morgan Stanley to carry out a strategic review of the business earlier this year after Google and Amazon cut prices on competing products. Here are links to the original Bloomberg story and a follow up piece:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sunday review

Most of today's Sunday newspaper business sections are focused on financial implications and risks of Scotland breaking away from the Union.

But tucked away on page 2 of The Sunday Times is a story from John Collingridge on Porterbrook, the train leasing company that has been put up for sale by a consortium of investors led by Deutsche Bank.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Financial Times and J Sainsbury

Bryce Elder, the stock market reporter over at the Financial Times, has this morning touched upon quite an interesting theory whistling around the London market.

Towards the end of Bryce's market report, the genial scotsman talks about how "activist funds are rumoured to be taking an interest in the supermarket after the stock's 31pc slump since mid-December".

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The auction of the auctioneer

It's a bit quiet in the world of public company M&A in the London market so I thought I would write a quick post on the auctioneer Bonhams following my piece in the Mail on Sunday last month.

For readers unfamiliar with the situation, the owners of Bonhams have reportedly hired bankers from Greenhill to carry out a strategic review (i.e. sale) of the 200-year old auctioneer.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Severn Trent bidders come together again...

But don't get too excited - it's not with a view to buying Severn Trent for £5 billion. Well, not at the moment, at least.

My sources tell me Canada's Borealis has been working with Wren House Infrastructure Management - a specialist infrastructure investment group set up by the Kuwait Investment Authority last year - to join a consortium bidding for train leasing company Porterbrook.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about CSR and consolidation in the pharmaceutical sector

The lads over at Tip TV invited me back on today to congratulate me on some of my InterMune stories.

In case you are interested, here is a link to today's clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/mergers-acquisitions-with-ben-harrington-05-09-2014/

Thursday, 4 September 2014

CSR appoints new adviser following Microchip approach

Here's an interesting snippet on the CSR takeover situation. I understand CSR has brought on board Goldman Sachs as a financial adviser alongside bankers from JP Morgan Cazenove.

For readers that don't recall, CSR admitted last week that it had received a takeover approach from Microchip Technology but had rejected the US company's offer because the offer was too low. Here is a link to CSR's announcement: http://www.investegate.co.uk/csr-plc--csr-/rns/csr-confirms-approach-from-microchip-technology/201408280947112254Q/

One last moment of smugness for Dixons Carhpone

Apologies for the blatant self promotion and backslapping but I thought I would take this moment to point out that index compiler FTSE yesterday confirmed that Dixons Carphone will be promoted to the FTSE 100 index as part of the next quarterly reshuffle.

Readers might recall that I broke the story back in February on little old Betaville about Carphone Warehouse being in merger talks with Dixons Retail with a view to creating a FTSE 100 retail giant worth over £3.5 billion. The tale was probably one of my best scoops since I started in financial journalism almost a decade ago.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Livening up

If you are based in the UK and into deals, there are couple of interesting jackanories floating around the inter web this afternoon.

First off, the venerable Wall Street Journal is reporting that Anglo American is open to offers. Here is a link to the Journal's piece: http://online.wsj.com/articles/anglo-american-ceo-says-open-to-takeover-offers-1409664798

3 normally makes a journalist "trend" but in this case...part 2

Andrew Clark's comment piece in The Times on Blavatnik's attempt to buy Perform for £700m is probably the most incisive piece of comment I have read on this peculiar takeover deal.

If your following the situation, Andrew's piece is worth a read. Here is a link to Andrew's article:

Monday, 1 September 2014

3 normally makes a journalistic "trend" but in this case...

In journalism hacks can claim to have discovered a new trend if they find three similar case studies. So, this piece may be a bit premature but I thought it would be worthwhile pointing out nonetheless.

Len Blavatnik's attempt to buy sports rights company Perform for £700m is the second time in the space of a month that the UK has seen an entrepreneur try to take the company in which he has substantial shareholding off the stock market.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Head scratching - part 2

Maybe I spoke (or wrote) too soon!

Microchip Technology has released a statement on the Regulatory News Service this morning although its dated from yesterday.

Here is a link to the Microchip statement: http://www.investegate.co.uk/microchip-technology/rns/mchp-confirms-preliminary-discussions-with-csr-plc/201408290700073020Q/

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Head scratching

Huge hat tip to Ed Hammond and Arash Massoudi the M&A reporters over at the Financial Times for their scoop on CSR this morning. It's not easy landing these types of jackanories during August when most of the dealmaking community is away sunning themselves in the Med.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Hammond and Massoudi's piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/35629c52-2e5b-11e4-b330-00144feabdc0.html and the confirmation from CSR: http://www.investegate.co.uk/csr-plc--csr-/rns/csr-confirms-approach-from-microchip-technology/201408280947112254Q/

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

That ASOS tale

I have had a fair few calls this morning about this ASOS takeover story that was doing the rounds in the market yesterday and today.

To be honest, I didn't know anything about the rumour until it appeared in Geoff Foster's stock market report. If you didn't see Geoff's piece, here is a link to it: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2735223/MARKET-REPORT-ASOS-shares-fashion.html

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Parky back on Betaville

Here is a link to another cracking column by Gary Parkinson, the stock market reporter over at The Timeshttp://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/tradesecrets/article4186604.ece

If Parky wrote a book based on his Trade Secrets column, I would definitely read it. And I'm sure many others would to.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fancy that - Roche agrees to buy InterMune for $8.3 billion

Good evening Betavillers!

I would have posted yesterday but I was taking a day off, enjoying the Notting Hill Carnival (for international readers unfamiliar with the Notting Hill Carnival, it is one of the biggest street parties in Europe held in the area of London where I live).

Friday, 22 August 2014

Parky on Betaville

Betaville has made it into Gary Parkinson's stock market report today as being the original source of the story behind China Mobile's interest in Vodafone.

Here is a link to the column in The Timeshttp://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/markets/article4183597.ece

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The latest M&A "boom" - part 2

Wow - the op eds on M&A are coming thick and fast over at the venerable Financial Times. Sarah Gordon, Europe business editor, has just published her view on what happens next in M&A now that several big deals have collapsed during the summer.

Here is a link to Sarah's excellent piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/311877de-278f-11e4-ae44-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=published_links%2Frss%2Fhome_us%2Ffeed%2F%2Fproduct&siteedition=uk#axzz3ArZZKtct

The latest M&A "boom"

Here is a very interesting take on this year's M&A boom from El-Erian, the former chief executive of bond investor PIMCO. The piece was published in today's Financial Times. 

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d3b11b24-26c5-11e4-8df5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3ArZZKtct

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fancy that - Europe's biggest drug makers said to bid for InterMune

Oh look, I see Bloomberg and Reuters are both reporting that InterMune has attracted several suitors, including GlaxoSmithKline, Actelion, Roche and Sanofi:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-13/europe-s-biggest-drugmakers-said-to-bid-for-intermune.html

Daisy Group

Will the uber-acquisitive Liberty Global/Virgin Media step in with a £500 million plus counter offer for telecoms and IT company Daisy Group?

Mark Kleinman over at Sky News revealed back in March that US cable giant Liberty Global, controlled by media tycoon Jon Malone, held takeover talks with Daisy Group but the negotiations ultimately broke down. Here is a link to Kleinman's article: http://news.sky.com/story/1225606/liberty-global-aims-to-bloom-with-500m-daisy

Monday, 11 August 2014

InterMune said to be working with Evercore on strategic options

It sounds like this InterMune situation is heating up.

Good sources tell me InterMune - a US-based bio-pharmaceutical company that specialises in making a drug to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis - has begun working with bankers from Evercore alongside long-standing financial adviser Goldman Sachs to look at 'strategic options' for the business.

Carillion's enthusiasm for Balfour Beatty

Construction group Carillion appears to be very keen to pursue a £3 billion merger with Balfour Beatty despite Balfour's intransigence towards a deal.

Here is a link to this morning's statement from Balfour Beatty outlining the reasons it rejected Carillion's latest proposal: http://www.investegate.co.uk/balfour-beatty-plc--bby-/rns/rejection-of-carillion-s-merger-proposal/201408110700077413O/

Friday, 8 August 2014

More on a German Orange and other stuff

I have had a lot of enquiries from loyal Betaville readers in recent weeks about Orange since I published my German Orange article back in June. In case you don't remember, here is a link to the article: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/a-german-orange.html

Anyway, I am reliably informed that Deutsche Telekom was waiting for the sale of its T-Mobile USA stake to be agreed before it could progress with an Orange tie-up.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Something afoot with Boots - part 3

Alistair Osborne, one of my former colleagues and bosses from The Daily Telegraph, is clearly refreshed after having some time off.

Indeed, Osborne's column today in The Times is highly entertaining and worthwhile a read, especially the item about Walgreen and Boots.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What's up with Evotec?

I have been hearing some pretty interesting things recently about a German drug developer called Evotec AG.

To be honest, it's not clear to me exactly what is going on with this stock.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Ouch!

Things are going from bad to worse at Bank of America Merrill Lynch's European investment banking team.

This year the hyper bullish investment bank has advised on three high-profile, European "bear hugs" that have gone nowhere. Those bear hugs were: Pfizer's £70 billion bid for AstraZeneca; Weir Group's attempt to merge with Finland's Metso as part of a £8.5 billion deal; and Destination Maternity's £300m tilt for Mothercare.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

BAT sits on the sidelines...for now

Looking over this morning's coverage of British American Tobacco's recent figures, I see a couple of newspaper reporters tried to tempt Nicandro Durante, CEO of BAT, into spilling the beans about whether the tobacco giant has any plans to consolidate its position in the US.

BAT has opted to stump up $4.7 billion to keep its stake in Reynolds American at 42pc while it merges with rival Lorillard as part of $50 billion plus mega merger.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

O3b internet spat

As chief executives, entrepreneurs and City dealmakers slope off to the Mediterranean for August
(islands off the Italian coast appear to be particularly in vogue at the moment), I am going to look at a few more "off-beat" stories.

One of the quirkier tales I have encountered recently involves a spat about O3b on You Tube, so I thought it was worth airing on little old Betaville.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Bear hug

Quelle surprise - another Bank of America Merrill Lynch bear hug has fallen over.

This year the Wall Street investment bank has advised several companies trying to buy rival businesses using a "bear hug", an aggressive tactic used in M&A to force the the target company to the negotiating table by making an indicative offer public.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Laughing stock

It looks like Pepsi's long-only shareholders are really piling the pressure on the company to give Nelson Peltz seats on the consumer giant's board.

The Financial Times is reporting that Calstrs, the California teacher's retirement system, has told Pepsi's senior independent director that Trian, Peltz's fund, could help Pepsi address its operational performance and open new management ideas, so the company should give Peltz a seat on the board.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Surprise

I see Apple chip maker Dialog Semiconductor and AMS have called off their SFr4 billion merger.

Here is a link to this morning's announcement from Dialog Semiconductor regarding the termination of merger taks: http://www.investegate.co.uk/dialog-semiconductor/rns/termination-of-merger-discussions/201407220700189490M/

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Another day, another multibillion pharma deal - part 2

Now that the £32 billion AbbVie/Shire deal looks to be "done" (or at least for the time being), it's time to look at another potential deal brewing in the sector.

I hear GlaxoSmithKline is in the early stages of examining a multi-billion dollar takeover bid for US-based biopharmaceutical company InterMune.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Is this the end of my what's missing from AbbVie's £32 billion takeover bid for Shire series?

I see there is no mention of Lazard in this morning's $53 billion deal announcement from AbbVie and Shire (for readers unfamiliar with this ongoing tale it might be worthwhile clicking here: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/whats-missing-from-abbvies-27-billion.html).

I am presuming, therefore, the venerable firm has not been hired by Shire as a "rule 3" adviser. Rule 3 advisers are typically appointed by British company boards to advise on whether an offer is "fair".

Thursday, 17 July 2014

There is something different about this booming IPO market

It struck me the other day that amid the recent IPO euphoria there appeared to be fewer foreign companies coming to list on the London market.

This year has seen the best first quarter for flotations since the first three months of 2007 but on the surface it seems to me that most of the recent floats have been private equity-backed businesses or entrepreneur-owned companies based in the UK.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Fancy that: BAT appoints Deutsche Bank alongside UBS to advise on $4.7 billion investment in Reynolds/Lorrillard merger

I see British American Tobacco has finally put on an announcement effectively confirming my story on the front page of The Times a few months ago.

Back in May, I wrote that BAT had asked Deutsche Bank to work alongside UBS, the company's long-standing financial adviser, on how it should pursue and finance deals in America. Here is a link to the article: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/consumer/article4086903.ece

Shire PR

Wow - Susan Kilsby, chairwoman of Shire, seems to be getting a lot of positive newspaper coverage this morning.

Kilsby, who I once met while working at The Daily Telegraph when she was at Credit Suisse, has even managed to generate praise from Alistair Osborne, an old colleague who rarely hands out compliments to investment bankers.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bitter Sweet(t) moment for WSP

I bet property consultant WSP is feeling rather relieved that it didn't press ahead with the purchase of Sweett Group at the beginning of the year.

For readers that don't recall, I had a story that WSP - which is owned by Canada-based Genivar Inc - was on the verge of buying Sweett Group in early January but pulled out of the deal around the time the Aim-listed business made this announcement:

A further update to my what's missing from AbbVie's £27 billion takeover bid for Shire story?

I wonder whether the market will finally find out whether Lazard has secured a role on the AbbVie/Shire deal?

(for readers wondering why I have posited this question it might be worthwhile clicking on the link to this previous article: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/whats-missing-from-abbvies-27-billion.html).

Land Registry privatisation plans go up in smoke

My "exclusive" story on the cancellation of the Land Registry privatisation is about to be confirmed, according to newspaper reports.

Readers might remember that the Mail on Sunday's business section splashed on my Land Registry tale just over a couple of weeks ago. Here is a link to the piece: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2673336/Vince-Cable-scraps-1-2-billion-Land-Registry-sell-off.html

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Fancy that: Whirlpool buys Indesit stake; Reynolds in advanced talks to buy Lorrilard

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple of days Betavillers. I have been down in deepest, darkest Kent with little access to the internet.

Anyway, I just thought I would write a quick post to celebrate the (or potential) announcement of a couple of big deals covered in depth on Betaville over the last few months.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Something afoot with Boots - part 2

It appears I might have kicked hornet's nest with this Alliance Boots piece I published a couple of days ago.

Indeed, people close to the situation have been in touch and they weren't best pleased with what I wrote. Here is a link to the original article I published earlier in the week:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Something afoot with Boots

I have been in two minds about publishing this piece but I have now run into a bit of a brick wall, so I have decided I may as well go with what I know.

Last week a good source hinted to me that there may be something untoward going on with Alliance Boots's debt.

La Repubblica reports Whirlpool close to being picked as preferred bidder for Indesit stake

Here is a tale for Betaville readers that have been following the long, drawn out auction of Indesit, the Italian home appliances company that sponsors Arsenal Football Club.

Apparently, Fineldo - the Merloni family's investment vehicle - has now received three binding offers for its 45pc stake in Indesit.

Friday, 4 July 2014

SMBC rumoured to be weighing £2 billion Porterbrook takeover

Evening Betavillers - here's a little tale for you to ruminate on over the weekend.

I hear one of Japan's biggest financial institutions may be weighing a £2 billion plus takeover bid for rolling stock giant Porterbrook.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Bank of America Merrill Lynch returns with another bear hug

Hat tip to Bryce Elder, the stock market reporter over at the Financial Times, for landing the best M&A story of the morning and who looks to be on a bit of deals story winning streak (remember last week Bryce broke the story about the Dialog and AMS merger - time for a pay rise, Ed?).

This morning the flying scotsman revealed in his market report that Mothercare had received a £266m takeover bid from US outfit Destination Maternity Corporation. Here is a link to Bryce's market report: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bcc5efe8-013b-11e4-9750-00144feab7de.html#axzz36INXxo2U

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

ING insurance float finally lifts off

I see reports are emerging that Dutch financial services giant ING is on the verge of listing its insurance arm in what should be one of the biggest IPO's of the year.

Here is a link to a Bloomberg piece: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-01/ing-said-to-price-nn-unit-at-midrange-in-1-9-billion-ipo.html

Monday, 30 June 2014

Mike Ashley said to eye a European purchase

Interesting to see Mike Ashley's Sports Direct deny speculation that the company is planning buy shoe chain Office. Here is a link to the statement from Sports Direct: http://www.investegate.co.uk/sports-direct-intl---spd-/rns/trade-speculation---office/201406300700158347K/

I spent the whole of last week trying to stand up a story that Ashley - a true maverick - is trying to purchase a retailer in "Europe" (i.e. outside of the UK) for the Mail on Sunday's business section.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Shaft Sinkers leaps 20pc...as ENRC founders win legal victory

Ever heard of Aim-listed Shaft Sinkers? Neither had I until a contact pointed out that yesterday the stock leapt 20pc for no good reason.

Now, most market players tend to pin an intra-day 20pc gain on a bid rumour but I think there is a more fundamental reason for yesterday's share price gain.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Another update to my what's missing from AbbVie's £27 billion takeover bid for Shire story?

The mystery surrounding Lazard's role in the Shire/AbbVie deal continues.

I have now firmly established from very well-placed sources that Lazard was appointed as a financial adviser to Shire last year (as Ben Marlow reported in The Sunday Times last August).

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Update to my what's missing from AbbVie's £27 billion takeover bid for Shire story?

The odds on Lazard turning up as an adviser to a bidder for Shire appear to be improving after it emerged the FTSE-100 listed company has appointed Goldman Sachs to its defence advisory team.

(This comment will only make sense if you read yesterday's Betaville piece: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/whats-missing-from-abbvies-27-billion.html)

Monday, 23 June 2014

What's missing from AbbVie's £27 billion takeover bid for Shire?

It struck me as I was going over the weekend media coverage of AbbVie's £27 billion takeover bid for FTSE 100-listed Shire that something was missing. That something is Lazard.

I mean, I think the pertinent question is what role has the venerable financial adviser got on this deal? The reason I ask is that up until now, the corporate finance house has been linked with a having a role on various sides of this multi-billion pound pharmaceutical deal.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Another update on the missing skyscraper story

The Sunday Times and Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv have unearthed an explosive new angle on the missing skyscraper story I have been running on Betaville over the last couple of months.

Here is a link to today's piece in The Sunday Times:

Friday, 20 June 2014

Latest Tip TV clip on the £27 billion takeover bid for Shire

If you are following the Shire takeover situation, this latest Tip TV clip could be of interest: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-20-06-2014/

Reuters lands Shire scoop; more on Tip TV later

Great hit from Olivia Oran and Mike Stone over at Reuters with a story about AbbVie's £26 billion plus takeover approach for London-listed Shire.

Here is a link to the original Reuters piece: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/19/us-shire-abbvie-exclusive-idUSKBN0EU2Q020140619?irpc=932. AbbVie have subsequently confirmed making an approach to Shire but it has been rejected. Clearly, though, this puts Shire "in play".

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Village gossip - Mergermarket founder poised to leave

Here is an interesting tale for Betaville readers interested in mergers & acquisitions reporting and financial publishing. 

I have learnt that Charlie Welsh - a former Financial News M&A reporter who set up Mergermarket, the business intelligence service for thousands of dealmakers around the world - is on the verge of leaving the company he established almost fifteen years ago.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Another update to my Whirlpool/Indesit story

It would appear Whirlpool is still in the running to buy Fineldo's majority stake in Indesit, the Italian home appliances company that sponsors Arsenal Football Club.

Readers might recall I published a piece back in March reporting that Whirlpool was preparing a EURO 2.3 billion takeover bid for Indesit.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Parky is at it again

If you have a puerile sense of humour like myself, then you might like Parky's latest column - it's hilarious but also on the money.

Here is the link: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/article4120168.ece

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A German Orange

Does anybody else find it a bit odd that today's media coverage of the failed merger talks between Orange and Bouygues Telecom pretty much all fail to mention the bigger industry tale that has been rattling around European markets all week - the talk of a EURO 90 billion merger between Deutsche Telekom and Orange.

I know this one has been knocking around for the last few days and a bit of an 'old chestnut' of a deal story. But this time I think there may be something in it, so it's worthwhile a mention on Betaville this morning.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A wrinkle on today's BHP Billiton story in the FT

Good story from James Wilson over at the Financial Times today on the front page of the newspaper's Companies and Markets section. James reports BHP Billiton is looking offload all of the assets that Billiton brought to the mining giant from the historic merger of both companies in 2001.

Here is the link to James Wilson's piece: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b7ba8126-f088-11e3-b112-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What do a missing skyscraper and a $60 billion financing package have in common?

Little old Betaville really has been making waves and causing trouble this week, with two of my recent jackanories ending up in reputable national newspapers this morning.

Indeed, The Guardian today published a front page (of the main book) piece on the 'missing skyscraper' series I have been running for the last month. Huge hat tip to Simon Bowers, the reporter over at The Guardian who ran the story.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Fortress looks to finally get out of Gagfah

It's just hit the tape that US private equity and hedge fund manager Fortress is placing its 27pc stake in German property company Gagfah. Deutsche Bank is doing the placing for Fortress, which bought Gagfah in 2004 for £2 billion.

I think I alluded to something being afoot with Gagfah a few weeks ago on Tip TV - http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-21-05-2014/ - although not quite what has been announced this morning.

Sorrell (junior) back on the acquisition trail

I see Jonathan Sorrell, the son of WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell, is up to his old tricks again.

Some readers might not recall that Jonathan Sorrell used to work at Goldman Sachs as a corporate financier. In the latter stages of his investment banking career, he was responsible for running Petershill - an investment fund that was set up in 2007 by Goldman Sachs to buy stakes in booming hedge fund management companies.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about S&N, InterMune and a $60 billion financing package

Betavillers can check out my new celebrity haircut on today's clip from Tip TV in which I talk about Smith & Nephew, InterMune and talk of a $60 billion financing package being put together by a US corporate for a European deal. Enjoy: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-06-06-2014/

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Another update on the missing skyscraper story

I see Richard Berridge has been checking out my Linked In profile. For Betaville readers that don't recall, Mr Berridge is the chief operating officer of Ryan Corporation, the company behind last year's  proposed scheme to build a 74-story residential skyscraper in Canary Wharf.

Back in November last year, the Financial Times quoted Mr Berridge as saying: "Canary Wharf is one of the few places in the UK where you can build a tall building. It's time for a very good residential building of a very high standard; that is that has been lacking until now".

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Double basement

Here's a piece of advice for any hedge fund manager looking to substantially renovate their multi-million pound London pile: you are likely to irritate the other people that live in your street.

And that appears to be what is happening in Belsize Park - a favourite for some of London's most successful hedgies.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Friday, 30 May 2014

Candy brothers turned down loan for missing skyscraper in 24 hours - I wonder why?

The missing skyscraper story I have been running on Betaville for the last couple of weeks really is worth keeping an eye on.

In another fascinating twist to the tale, it transpires that late last year, Thomas Gerrard Ryan, the mystery Irish property developer, and Hans-Olav Eldring, the former Credit Suisse private banker, approached Christian Candy's property lending division, Omni Capital Partners Limited, for a multi-million pound bridge loan to finance the Herstmere House scheme, a 74-storey residential skyscraper to be built in Canary Wharf.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Fancy a pint - part 3

Huge hat tip to Dominic Walsh over the at The Times for his scoop on Mitchells & Butlers's "exclusive" discussions to buy the Orchid pub group for about £250m.

M&B have just had to issue a statement confirming Dom's tale. Here is the link: http://www.investegate.co.uk/mitchells---38--butlers--mab-/rns/response-to-press-speculation-on-orchid-estates/201405290842053277I/.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

So Weir Group did end up offering some cash (sort of) to Metso shareholders

Sincere apologies - I forgot to highlight in my post earlier today that Weir Group offered some cash in its latest £8.5 billion merger proposal to Finnish engineer Metso.

Some readers might not remember that a few weeks ago when I suggested Weir Group might be willing to offer some cash to Metso as part of fresh takeover proposal for the business, the company went a tad ballistic, going on the record with a non-denial, denial to any news service that would listen.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees £80 billion worth deals vanish in two days

Dealmakers round at Bank of America Merrill Lynch must be feeling pretty sore right now.

Why? Well, rainmakers at the US investment bank have just seen about £80 billion worth of deals go up in smoke in the last 48 hours.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Parky still firing on all cylinders

Gary Parkinson, the market reporter over at The Times, wrote another fantastic 'Trade Secrets' column yesterday.

Here is a link to Parky's highly amusing piece: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/article4100877.ece 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The dealmaker, the bank and the missing skyscraper - part 3

The missing skyscraper story I did last week looks like it is really starting to heat up.

Readers may recall my sources told me a Credit Suisse banker was involved in putting together the Herstmere House project, a plan to build a £1 billion, 74-story residential skyscraper in Canary Wharf that vanished into thin air along with its mystery Irish property developer.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Back on Tip TV clip talking about Elliott and AstraZeneca, Metso and Gagfah

Sorry for the late posting Betavillers - I have been out and about all day.

Here is this morning's Tip TV clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-21-05-2014/.  The clip is worth watching if your interested in the Pfizer/AstraZeneca situation as I have picked up  some interesting gossip about AstraZeneca and US hedge fund Elliott.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Update on my missing skyscraper story

Regular readers might recall that last week I published a rather interesting tale about Herstmere House, the residential skyscraper that was supposed to be built in Canary Wharf by a mystery Irish property tycoon. Here is a link to the original article: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-dealmaker-bank-and-missing.html

Anyway, since I published that piece I noticed that a lawyer from Credit Suisse (who will remain nameless) has been furiously checking out my Linked In profile. Perhaps I struck a nerve.....

Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Osborne begins new era

Great to see my old colleague and sort-of boss Alistair Osborne kick off his new job at The Times with a cracking column on the Pfizer/AstraZeneca takeover situation.

Alistair is a professional wind up merchant and I was regularly on the receiving end of his wrath (any minute now I'm sure I will receive an email from him telling me off about my poor English/grammar etc) but I have to admit he is one of the finest business journalists I have ever worked with. Here is a link to Alistair's column that was published in The Times today: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/columnists/article4093361.ece.

AstraZeneca rejects latest Pfizer approach

Wow - AstraZeneca has rejected Pfizer's fresh £55.00 a share offer.

Now, I have to admit I didn't see that coming. I thought the raise would allow both companies to at least start talking and get an extension to the "put up or shut up" deadline.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Fancy that - Pfizer is apparently preparing to sweeten its offer for Astra

Interesting to see most of the financial media (The Sunday Times, Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Mark Kleinman over at Sky News) reporting today Pfizer is preparing to sweeten its offer for AstraZeneca to about £55.00 a share.

I'm sure I alluded to something very similar happening on Tip TV last Thursday. Here is a link to the clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-15-05-14/

Friday, 16 May 2014

The dealmaker, the bank and the missing skyscraper

I'm not a huge fan of Canary Wharf (I used to work there when I first started on the The Daily Telegraph) but I have just stumbled across a rather interesting tale about the financial district and one of the banks based there.

Some Betaville readers might remember that back in November last year it emerged with great fanfare that an Irish property developer was planning to build £1 billion, 74-storey residential skyscraper - to be called called Hertsmere House - on a £100 million site in Canary Wharf. Here is a link to a story in the Financial Times about the scheme: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/122d3106-4d3e-11e3-9f40-00144feabdc0.html#axzz31i4U0YR1

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

To go hostile or not hostile

Bloomberg, the BBC's Kamal Ahmed (a jolly nice chap and my old boss from time at The Sunday Telegraph) and Channel 4's Faisal Islam have been alluding to Pfizer potentially going "hostile" on AstraZeneca following the release of the US company's statement this morning. Here is a link to the statement: http://www.investegate.co.uk/pfizer-inc--pfz-/rns/pfizer-s-possible-offer-for-astrazeneca-plc/201405130700379374G/ 

I think I mentioned on Sunday the "hostile" bid rumour was rattling around the market towards the end of last week. Here is a link to the article: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/sunday-review.html#more

Monday, 12 May 2014

My debut in The Times biz section with a BAT story

Evening Betavillers. Sorry for the lack of posts today - I have been a bit busy doing some freelance work for the The Times. 

Indeed, some of my followers may have noticed that I had a piece about British American Tobacco published on the front page of The Times business section this morning but for those of you that haven't here is a link to the article:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sunday review

I'm surprised to see none of the rumours about Pfizer launching a hostile bid for AstraZeneca end up in the Sunday newspapers today.

The hostile bid rumour - and also talk that Pfizer was planning to drop its bid - were both doing the rounds among traders and hedge funds late last week. I presume there is nothing in both rumours (at this moment in time, at least) given both were being aired simultaneously and neither has ended up being stood up by a reputable Sunday newspaper.

Friday, 9 May 2014

More Weir Group gossip

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple of days. I have been busy scurrying around in the undergrowth (mainly pubs in City of London and Mayfair hotel bars) trying to dig up some jackanories for loyal Betaville readers.

There is potentially some interesting stuff coming up but I also stumbled across one historic tale that puts an altogether different spin on Weir Group's attempt to merge with Finnish company Metso to create an £8.5 billion industrial giant.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A deal scoop that may complete...

Happy days - it looks like a major deal story I broke earlier in the year is actually going to happen.

Often after breaking a story about a big deal - such as Borealis's £5 billion bid for Severn Trent last summer or Amec's £700m tilt for Kentz Corporation in August 2014 - the whole thing falls apart despite formal confirmation on the regulatory news service of an approach from the bidder.

Another day, another multibillion dollar pharma deal - part 2

Is Hikma Pharmaceuticals the next takeover target in the pharmaceutical sector?

The boys over The Motley Fool certainly seem to think so.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Update to Whirlpool/Indesit story

Interesting to see Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore report today that Whirlpool is one of the front runners to buy a stake in Indesit, the home appliances company that sponsors Arsenal Football Club.

Here is a link to today's article from: http://carlofesta.blog.ilsole24ore.com/2014/05/per-indesit-lamericana-whirlpool-in-pole-i-turchi-di-arcelik-verso-il-ritiro.html

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Another "bump" to come from Pfizer?

So Pfizer's new indicative offer for AstraZeneca came in yesterday at £50.00 a share.

Funny that, because £50.00 a share is exactly the same price I mentioned in the blog posting I published when Ben Marlow of The Sunday Times broke the original story about Pfizer having approached the FTSE 100 company a few months ago. Here is a link to the original blog posting: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/marlow-cooks-up-massive-drugs-deal.html

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Back on Tip TV talking about AstraZeneca, Cabot Oil and Gas and InterMune

I was invited back onto Tip TV this morning to talk about deals, potential upcoming deals and general backslapping for predicting Pfizer would come back for AstraZeneca.

Here is a link to today's show: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-01-05-2014/

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Not another Metso story!

Here's an interesting snippet I recently picked up about Weir Group's attempt to "merge" with Finnish company Metso.

Good sources have told me the maximum price Weir Group is willing to pay for Metso is EURO 28 a share.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Another day, another multibillion dollar pharma deal....

Wow - today's news about Pfizer formally launching its $100 billion takeover bid for AstraZeneca has sent the pharmacuetical sector rumour mill into overdrive.

One company that is getting a lot of attention in European markets is US-based InterMune, a biotechnology business focused on the research and development of therapies in pulmonology and fibrotic diseases.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Back on Tip TV to talk about pharma deals, Alstom and Ladbrokes

Loyal Betaville readers might be pleased to hear my celebrity status is increasing as I was asked back onto to Tip TV today.

Don't worry, though, I won't let it go to my head. For any reader that is interested, here is a link to today's clip.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fancy a pint - part 2

Loyal Betaville readers may recall that a few weeks ago I published a post about FTSE 250 pub companies Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King.

For those readers that don't remember, I noticed that both companies had almost identical market capitalisations. And after speaking to an excellent source, I noted speculation there had this year been some loose discussions about the two companies combining.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rose replaces Rose at Blue Inc ahead of IPO

Here's an interesting tale about one of Britain's oldest retailers.

I understand Sir Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, has stepped down as chairman of "fast fashion" retailer Blue Inc ahead of a potential flotation of the 100-year old company.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Marlow cooks up massive drugs deal

Huge hat tip to Ben Marlow, the M&A reporter over at The Sunday Times. 

Ben - who is having an amazing story-breaking run at the moment - landed the scoop of the Easter weekend (and possibly the year) with his tale that US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been weighing a £60 billion takeover bid for London-listed AstraZeneca.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Metso back under the spotlight - again!

I see Finnish engineering company Metso has today rejected Weir Group's £8.5 billion all-share merger proposal. Not much of a surprise there following last week's shenanigans on Betaville.

Weir Group said in its statement that it had offered 0.8400 shares per Metso share to the Finnish company's board.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Another Aussie scoop: SAS swoops on Yorkshire Water

An Australian investment group that manages pensions for the New South Wales police force has secretly purchased a multi-million pound stake in Yorkshire Water, one of Britain's largest water companies.

Top sources down under tell me that in recent weeks the SAS Trustee Corporation, also known as the State Super, bought a 10pc shareholding in Kelda - the company that owns Yorkshire Water - from Citigroup Infrastructure Investors and Infracapital, which is part of FTSE 100-listed insurer Prudential.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Wellcare Health Plans Inc said to be $4bn takeover target for US healthcare insurance giants

There is a bit of a buzz in European markets about a US company called Wellcare Health Plans Inc and I think I know why.

Wellcare Health Plans Inc - which provides Medicare and Medicaid managed care plans to its members in the US - has this year already been tipped as a takeover target by several leading Wall Street analysts, including scribblers round at Credit Suisse.

Betaville gets back on Tip TV...and talks about Metso

Good news - Tip TV asked me back onto the show today to talk about M&A.

Here is a link to today's Tip TV clip: http://www.tiptv.co.uk/archives/tip-tv-highlight-ben-harrington-10-04-2014/

Metso back under the spotlight...

I have just picked up a rather interesting titbit about Weir Group's attempt to combine with the Finnish engineering company Metso.

Betaville readers will remember that I kicked off the story back in early March when some of sources told me "something is going on" with Metso and that FTSE 100-listed Weir Group may be looking to buy the business. Here is a link to the original story: http://betaville123.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/metso-under spotlight.html

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How to tell whether a merger rumour will come true.....

A couple of US academics have just published some research on Merger & Acquisition (M&A) reporting (a subject close to my heart) in the US.

They have come up with some interesting theories on how to tell whether M&A stories will come "true".

Sunday, 6 April 2014

House of Ashley

Being a rather self-deprecating chap (I'm half English, after all) I tend to avoid shameless self promotion. But on this occasion, I can't resist.

Last Monday, I congratulated Ben Marlow, the M&A reporter over at The Sunday Times, on Betaville for getting the scoop about the £450m takeover of House of Fraser by China's Sanpower Corporation.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Aussie scoop: Evolution Mining said to be in talks to buy OZ Minerals for AUS$1.6bn

I've got an Australian deal exclusive for Betaville readers that like to keep an eye on things happening down under. 

Top sources down under tell me Evolution Mining, a listed Australian gold and silver mining company, has been holding advanced talks with OZ Minerals about buying the business for AUS$1.6 billion.   

Betaville makes debut on Tip TV

Good news - I have become a TV celebrity.

Just joking. Seriously, though, Betaville made its debut on Tip TV - check it out everyday at http://www.tiptv.co.uk - alongside Nick "Moose" Batsford, a City veteran, south Londoner and also a lovely man.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

JD...and Cognac

In discreet Mayfair hotel bars men in dark glasses are talking about Remy Cointreau. But it's not because they like drinking expensive Cognac.

There is a theory rattling around the hedge fund districts of London, Paris and Geneva that Remy Cointreau is a takeover target for US drinks giant Brown-Forman, owner of Tennessee whiskey Jack Daniel's.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sweett Group is not so sweet after all

Sweett Group shares have taken a hammering this morning, tumbling by almost 30pc.

This is because the company, one of Britain's oldest quantity surveyors, said it has discovered evidence that suggests "material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees of the group during the period of 2009 - 2011".

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Parkinson on top form - again

Gary Parkinson take a bow.

Gary, a market reporter over at The Times, and his colleague Robert Lea have just landed a cracking scoop about Weir Group trying to merge with Finland's Metso as part of an £8.5bn deal. Here is a link the piece: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/industrials/article4050660.ece

Monday, 31 March 2014

House of China

Great scoop from Ben Marlow over the weekend about House of Fraser.

Ben, currently the M&A reporter at The Sunday Times, revealed that one of China's richest men is in advanced talks to buy the 165-year-old department store chain from its eclectic bunch of shareholders.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Fancy a pint?

Am I the only person to have noticed that pub companies Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King are currently trading on the stock market with almost identical market capitalisations?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Foxtons founder gets busy with chalet renovations in Courchevel 1850

Loyal Betaville readers might have noticed I am back from my jaunt in the French Alps.

But there was one thing I forgot to mention. While out in Courchevel 1850, I stumbled across a tale about how Jon Hunt - the founder of Foxtons - was spending a small fortune renovating a chalet in the resort.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Another dust up between dealmakers - but this time on Twitter

Today is clearly about corporate governance rows!

But the latest spat between banking heir Nathaniel Rothschild and the Bakries, the wealthy Indonesian family, has taken an altogether more fruity twist than the row between Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation ands Sir Paul Judge (see an earlier post).

ENRC sailed off into the sunset....

Remember Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation? 

If not, here is a gentle reminder: ENRC was the Kazakh mining company that successfully floated in 2007 but the business was taken private by its founders late last year following a long-running corporate governance spat with Sir Paul Judge, the City grandee who used to sit on the board of the business. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Whirlpool prepares takeover of Arsenal sponsor Indesit

American giant Whirlpool is closing in on a Euro 2.3 billion acquisition of Indesit, an Italian home appliances company that sponsors Arsenal Football Club.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Save the Rich - only in Courchevel 1850...

Loyal Betaville readers might have noticed my blogging has been a bit less busy this week.

Don't worry! I have gone snowboarding for a couple of days in Courchevel 1850, a French ski resort in the Alps,  and will be back next week.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Swiss posturing

Swiss Re this morning announced it is proposing a 10pc increase in its ordinary dividend to 3.85 Swiss francs a share and also additional special dividend of 4.15 Swiss francs a share. See the link: http://www.swissre.com/media/news_releases/nr_20140318_agm.html

Monday, 17 March 2014

Italian companies and their difficulty with the truth

Interesting to see Pirelli and Rosneft announce this morning the Russian gas giant has acquired a significant stake in the tyre group's holding company.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Why wrestling is important for Newcastle United

Here is a tale about a potential US deal that may have significant implications for Newcastle United Football Club.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Agnelli family said to be in talks to buy 20pc of Swiss Re

I think I might have landed another genuine scoop. Here it is:

I understand a trust controlled by Italy's Agnelli family has been holding talks with Swiss Re about buying a 20pc stake in the insurance giant worth up to 8bn Swiss Francs.