BHP Mulls Divestiture of UK Assets, Carlyle Finalizes Metaldyne Sale: Merger and Acquisitions Update

BHP Billiton Limited (NYSE:BHP) might divest its United Kingdom petroleum operations, which include crude oil and natural gas fields and a processing plant, as it endeavors to narrow the focus of its portfolio of mining and energy assets. To that effect, the firm has initiated a strategic review of the division and is exploring options, including the possible sale of the assets, said a spokeswoman Wednesday. Assets partly owned by BHP includes Liverpool Bay, comprised of five producing offshore gas and oil fields in the Irish Sea, and the Point of Ayr onshore processing plant in north Wales. BHP owns a 46.1 percent interest in the operation while ENI (NYSE:E) owns the remainder.

On Wednesday, The Carlyle Group (NYSE:CG) finalized its sale of Metaldyne for approximately $820 million to another buyout company, marking its second divestment of a domestic auto part vendor it picked up from bankruptcy in two years. In September, Reuters that American Securities was the lead bidder to acquire Metaldyne for more than $800 million from Carlyle.

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The very expensive acquisition ($1.26 billion) by Nielsen Holdings (NYSE:NLSN) of the radio-measurement major Arbitron, which has held a virtual monopoly on TV ratings for decades, has analysts wondering why. Nielson Chief Executive David Calhoun remarked Tuesday that, “Arbitron will help Nielsen better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out-of-home,” but some observers in media and advertising circles think it was actually a backwards-looking move for the latter. Analyst Todd Juenger at Bernstein Research said, “Seems to us like a zig when people were asking for a zag.”

Markel Corporation (NYSE:MKL) and Alterra Capital Holdings Limited reported that their respective boards of directors have each unanimously okayed a definitive merger agreement. Through the terms, the aggregate amount for Alterra is around $3.13 billion, calculated on the December 18th close of $486.05 for Markel common stock.

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