HSBC Divests Ping An Insurance, Yahoo Snags OnTheAir: M&A Weekly Recap

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to this week’s M&A headlines:

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Since an injunction against a takeover was lifted in September, Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE:MLM) will now probably consider a friendly offer for its competitor, the gravel and sand provider Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE:VMC), rather than launch another hostile takeover attempt, say knowledgeable sources. A judge in Delaware had enjoined the former in May from any moves of the sort.

In a Monday press release, Dean Foods Company (NYSE:DF) said that it will divest its Morningstar Foods unit to Saputo (SAPIF.PK) for $1.45 billion. The division is a top maker of dairy and non-dairy extended shelf-life and cultured products, among which include whipping cream, creams and creamers, iced coffee, ice cream mixes, aerosol whipped toppings, half and half, value-added milks, sour cream and cottage cheese. The sale was okayed by the company’s Board of Directors.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is said to be in discussions to purchase Whatsapp, a multi-platform mobile messaging application, say  knowledgeable sources. If such a deal happens, it would be an alternative way for Facebook to continue broadening its contacts with the mobile consumer. When the company reached the threshold of 1 billion monthly active users, Mark Zuckerberg remarked to BusinessWeek that mobile would be crucial to Facebook reaching the “next billion,” adding that “The big thing is obviously going to be mobile. There are 5 billion people in the world who have phones.”

European Aeronautic (EADSY.PK) shares gained more than two percent for a second day, as investors hope for a simpler structure for Europe’s largest aerospace group which has been controlled by a myriad of French and German public and private interests since it was formed in 2000.  The crux of interest in the potential change is on transactions required to permit the Berlin government to obtain an investment in the Airbus parent. The agreement is expected to allow Germany in as a direct shareholder for the first time, while at the same time permitting the proxy industrial shareholders, French media firm Lagardere Groupe (LGDDF.PK), and Daimler (DDAIY.PK), to divest their stakes.

Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) purchases the video chat broadcasting application OnTheAir only nine months after it first debuted. The financials of the transaction were not reported. The acquisition includes the five team members of OnTheAir, who should help Yahoo compete with Google Hangouts (NASDAQ:GOOG) and/or to build mobile communication applications.

The South Korean steelmaker Posco (NYSE:PKX) leads a consortium that has been named the preferred bidder for an interest in an ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT)-controlled iron-ore mine firm in Canada, said a knowledgeable source on Tuesday, adding to Dow Jones Newswires that the “Posco-led consortium has been in exclusive talks” with ArcelorMittal for the stake. In mid-november, Posco revealed that it was thinking about creating a consortium to purchase the stake in a bid to boost access to the key raw material.

General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) looks to divest its Swiss consumer lending division and UBS (NYSE:UBS) might make an offer in a deal that could be worth as much as 1.5 billion Swiss francs, or $1.6 billion, say sources, who add to that the Swiss banking giant is one of two parties that intend to submit bids for GE Money Bank in an auction process. One source said that, “GE wants to finalize the sale… by the end of the first quarter.”

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It was a non-win for the activist investor Carl Icahn on Tuesday as only 22 percent of shares were tendered in his $32.50 per share offer for control of the American truck and military vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK), less than the 25 percent for which he had hoped. However, Icahn is still the company’s lead shareholder with 9.5 percent and has said that buying many shares would have improved his chances of overhauling the board, but he is letting his goal go as for now.

In a late Tuesday press release, it was announced that AOL’s (NYSE:AOL) Advertising.com Group has purchased Buysight, a leading supplier of retargeting and intent-based targeted advertising. Financials of the transaction were not divulged.

PMI Gold Corporation (PMVGF.PK) and Keegan Resources (AMEX:KGN) have reached a definitive agreement through which to combine their respective businesses and thus form a leading West African gold development company. The combined entity will continue under the name “Asanko Gold Inc.”, which reflects the West Ghana region in which the two firms hold their principal gold projects. Asanko will be headed by Peter Breese, the current president and chief executive of Keegan and Collin Ellison, and the current managing director and chief executive of PMI.

HSBC Holdings (NYSE:HBC) says that it has divested its 15.6 percent interest in China’s Ping An Insurance (PIAIF.PK) at a price of $9.38 billion to Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group). The seller is currently ridding itself of non-core assets under its recovery plan. CP Group’s acquisition was financed in part by the state-run China Development Bank.

Analyst James Crandell at Dahlman Rose thinks that Weatherford International (NYSE:WFT) might be a potential merger and acquisition  target for two principal reasons. One is that the filing of its back 10-Ks and 10-Qs, along with subsequent resolution with regulators, will allow Weatherford to concentrate on decreasing its debt while improving free cash flow and return on capital. The second is that its shares are undervalued at current market prices. It is also thought that Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) and General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) might be taking looks at Weatherford. The former might be attracted to the firm for its leadership position in artificial lift, and a strong presence in Russia, while  GE could snap up Weatherford to unify its disparate product lines and also to establish it as a major sector player.

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Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, the former Chief Executive of KIT Digital (NASDAQ:KITD), has significantly reduced his price to acquire the video tech supplier, pointing to the firm’s worsening liquidity and capital structure problems. Tuzman had sent a letter to Kit Digital’s board offering indicative price range of between $1.35 and $1.70 per shar, with the mid-point of the bid valuing the company at $87.08 million. Currently, that amount is more than twice its market value of around $40.93 million.

Chatter is swirling that Chief Executive Marius Kloppers of the mining major BHP Billiton Limited (NYSE:BHP) might be readying an offer of $55 per share for Walter Energy (NYSE:WLT), Alabama’s ‘pure play’ metallurgical coal producer. Shares of the latter ended the day Wednesday up more than 6.5 percent in New York, and BHP saw its stocks up 46.5p to 1998p in London. More rumors have it that BHP is planning a successor to Kloppers, perhaps Mick ‘the miner’ Davis, as he steps down as head of Xstrata (XSRAF.PK)(XSRAY.PK) once its now famous merger with Glencore International (GLCNF.PK) is completed. It has not always been easy going for Kloppers, who was heavily bashed for not being able to realize three important bids he initiated, namely, the full acquisition of Rio Tinto, a merger with the latter’s iron unit, and an offer for the Potash Corporation in Canada.

In a Thursday release, United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) reported that it reached a mutual agreement with TransDigm Group Incorporated (NYSE:TDG) to terminate the previously announced divestiture of the Goodrich Corporation pump and engine control systems unit to TransDigm. The parties ended their agreement after being notified that the Justice Department objected to the transaction.

LMI Aerospace (NASDAQ:LMIA), announced Thursday that it will purchase Valent Aerostructures for around $237 million, plus about $9.7 million of certain retained obligations. The buyer is a leading provider of structural assemblies, kits and components and design engineering services to both the aerospace and defense industries. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) has previously awarded Supplier of the Year to both LMI and to Valent.

The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) took itself  out of the bidding for Inghams Enterprises, Australia’s largest poultry producer, because the asking price was too high, say inside sources. The firm is valued at approximately $1.5 billion.

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has received a memo from Wayne Wouters, the government’s top bureaucrat, which says that Cnooc Limited’s (NYSE:CEO) proposed $15.1-billion takeover of Nexen (NYSE:NXY) would give the Chinese firm the largest interest of  the Buzzard oil field in the North Sea that “has increasingly influenced” world oil prices. Nexen reportedly holds 43 percent of Buzzard, which initiated output in 2007, and comprises the biggest oil find off the United Kingdom in the past two decades. Harper’s government is currently evaluating the proposed merger, but to pass, the move must be in Canada’s interest. In addition, the memo advised Harper on Sinopec’s (NYSE:SHI) proposed $1.5-billion purchase of 49 percent of the United Kingdom’s assets of the Calgary- based Talisman Energy (NYSE:TLM), which is moot as that transaction does not require Canada’s approval for completion.

According to knowledgeable sources, a consortium led by New China Trust Co. and its chairman Weng Xianding is in discussions to purchase a controlling interest in American International Group’s (NYSE:AIG) aircraft-leasing division, International Lease Finance Corp. The group includes China Aviation Industry Fund and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, together with ILFC’s management. A transaction could value ILFC at around $5.5 billion, say the sources. Based on that valuation, such an acquisition could represent the largest Chinese takeover in the United States, potentially surpassing China Investment Corp.’s $3 billion purchase of an interest in The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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In a Friday press release, Bunge Limited (NYSE:BG) said that it will divest its fertilizer unit in Brazil to Yara International (YARIF.PK)(YARIY.PK) for $750 million in a cash transaction. The deal includes blending facilities, brands and warehouses, and the parties also enter into a long-term fertilizer supply agreement, which permits Bunge to continue to provide fertilizer to farmers through its grain origination activities. In addition, Bunge will keep and continue to operate its fertilizer terminal in the Port of Santos.

China’s Ministry of Commerce on Friday approved Glencore International’s (GNCLF.PK) $6 billion acquisition of the Canadian grain handler Viterra (VTRAF.PK), which marks the final regulatory hurdle for the deal that was first set to close back in July. Prior to the approval, speculation had it that China was delaying a decision until the Canadian government made up its mind on a takeover of the Canadian oil producer Nexen (NYSE:NXY) by China’s Cnooc Limited (NYSE:CEO). Upon completion, the purchase will give the buyer an area currently dominated by Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE:ADM), Cargill,  and Bunge, also complementing its presence in metals, minerals and oil.