August 17: There is some good stuff around today, especially considering the time of year.
In addition to a few scoops we’re chasing, we expect more news on the big story of the week: the $20bn private equity bid for NTL. The bidders are meeting the company today. There will be lots to say here, so we’ll devote some space to it on the inside pages in addition to an outside news story. Getting a graphic that will illustrate the painful history of this company is the main challenge. Our media editor, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, thinks there could be an agreement on a deal by the end of the week. Quite why those shareholders who have already endured so much should want to give up now isn’t clear, but perhaps they don’t like the look of an industry where everybody is trying to offer more for “free” than their rivals. Interesting to see Providence Equity Partners in the bidding consortium: they have led the consolidation of the cable industry in continental Europe. Already, NTL’s credit default swaps are surging as the credit market prices in the greater probability of default. But will the private equity bidders really go unchallenged?
More prosaically, Baggeridge Brick is being bought by Wienerberger of Austria. This is deal is worth less than £90m but I like this story, and not just because I used to cover the building materials industry and have an indirect link to another part of the brick industry. There is lots of colour here: the company (first listed on the Birmingham stock exchange, oddly) and its founding family have a great history. A story on the AFX newswire (sorry, can’t find a link) cites industry insiders saying that the founding Ward family may not like this deal at all. They have a strong industrial heritage and are an interesting family for other reasons (read more tomorrow about the Mad Marchioness and the family’s link to The Thorn Birds).
Weir Group, the Scottish engineer with 50 years’ experience in Iraq, some of it controversial, is losing patience with the security situation there. It is backing off from Iraq for a while. The group also announced strong full-year results which made the stock one of the best mid-cap performers this morning.
Spanish media reports have been suggesting that Sacyr, a Spanish construction group, is on the shortlist to buy London City Airport. They might want to ask their compatriots at Ferrovial how much fun it is to own a British airport at the moment. Our Madrid correspondent is having a look.
Also, brace yourselves for news about the caravan industry (yes, really, and it’s beautifully written by James Wilson).
Plus we have a fantastic obituary of Pat Matthews, who has died aged 85 and who the great David Kynaston (who has written the obit) says “was the former undisputed supremo of First National Finance Corporation and a key figure in the 1970s secondary banking crisis.” Publisher and author Frank Hermann wrote about meeting Matthews for the first time in his autobiography, Low Profile: a Life in The World of Books. They were discussing a deal which sounds like a prototype of what became the management buy-in. He found him “polite but slightly distant; ill-at-ease”.
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