Listen to this article
And I thought yesterday was a big news day. Today we have Reuters confirming it has received a bid approach (we think from Thomson), Altadis saying it has received the approach we have been awaiting from a CVC-led consortium, and EMI confirming our story this morning that it, too, has been approached. That’s nearly £20bn-worth of bids by lunch in London alone. Oh, and there are rumours someone (possibly Deutsche Börse) is interested in Icap.
My friends on FT Alphaville got the Reuters stuff up even before the wires, saying the approach was at 600p. They say Reuters will only talk at 750p and have an excellent summary of the veto held by the Founders Share and the company’s constitution. Personally, I don’t see that the group’s “independence and trust principles” are necessarily threatened by a Thomson bid. Reuters shares are up about 25 per cent on the news but Pearson shares and Reed Elsevier shares are up as well. We’ll do a bit in tomorrow’s paper about what people think Rupert Murdoch’s Dow Jones bid and today’s news means for the FT and its publisher Pearson, in which I own shares.
I notice Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper says it has confirmed that Thomson Corporation is in talks with Reuters but its sources denied the approach was a reaction to Murdoch’s Dow move.
No doubt some will grumble about yet another British company falling into foreign hands, with Reuters coming a day after we learned of HeidelbergerCement’s interest in Hanson. But I don’t plan to make much of it. Anyway, if you go back far enough Reuters is not all that British and Thomson is really not all that foreign. Is the more interesting thread binding the two stories, as my colleague Emiliya Mychasuk points out, not the consolidation in mature, and commoditised, industries?
On top of all that ABN Amro looks like it is finally getting the message. It says it is working with RBS and its partners “in a constructive and collaborative manner”. Barclays used the same codename for its ABN bid as a 1944 Allied operation in the Netherlands, Operation Pegasus. But its efforts look increasingly like the disastrous Operation Market Garden at Arnhem it was meant to clean up.
BG Group reported a 24 per cent decline in first-quarter pre-tax profit due to lower gas prices and the weaker US dollar, even as production volumes rose.
A couple of interesting moves to note. The chairman of troubled Jessops, Gavin Simonds, is stepping down to be replaced by David Adams, a veteran of House of Fraser and Asprey. And one of Isoft’s founders is leaving.
For those who didn’t manage to get through all the excellent stuff in today’s paper on UBS’s hedge fund problems, I leave you with one essential quote. It is from Peter Wuffli, UBS chief executive: “We under-appreciated the synergies of a proprietary trading operation being directly integrated into the investment bank.” That tells you a lot.