The UBS financial services conference in New York is turning out to be less fun than billed: Barclays’ John Varley, eager to show he and his team are up to the ABN deal, did, as expected, ‘fess up to mistakes in integrating Woolwich. But his rivals in the battle for ABN Amro – Santander CFO Jose Antonio Alvarez and Sir Fred Goodwin from RBS – pulled out, I think on legal advice.
The real fun today is to be had going through the private documents released today by the RBS-led consortium and ABN. One of them shows that ABN’s own bankers offered to finance RBS’s bid, even as ABN was complaining that RBS didn’t have the money. We’re still checking but my hunch is these banks included UBS and Morgan Stanley.
“Merrill Lynch and the Banks have received numerous approaches from other major financial institutions, including some institutions currently advising you, wishing to participate in any fund raising we may do,” Sir Fred and his colleagues wrote to ABN’s Rijkman Groenink on May 3. The question remains, as my colleague Peter Thal Larsen points out, whether ABN’s banks would still be there if RBS went hostile.
There is plenty more in these documents, the disclosure of which was prompted by the Dutch regulator and is extraordinary in a takeover bid. And a supplementary document on the ABN website, a Blackberry email from Merrill Lynch, will amuse some as well.
We thought Virgin Media was in a serious mess last week when it published its first-quarter results, so we ran the story on the front page. Today it turns out we weren’t alone: Franklin Mutual, which has built up a 9.4 per cent stake, says it wants talks with the company regarding, “among other things”, its strategic direction, corporate governance and management. Punchy stuff, especially from one not normally so aggressive in public.
This morning we had yet another deal in financial news. Informa, publisher of Lloyd’s List, is buying Datamonitor for £502m, which provides online information on the automotive, consumer and retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, and technology sectors. Informa shares remain below last year’s 630p approach from Springer Science and Business Media.
And, still in media, Pearson (which publishes the FT and in which I have shares) announced this afternoon it is buying eCollege, an online distance learning business in the US, for $477m. Earlier, Exponent Private Equity announced a deal to flip on TSL Education (publisher of the Times Educational Supplement and run by ex-FT journalist Bernard Gray) to Charterhouse Capital.
We also have Britvic tidying up its Irish business by buying a soft drinks and distribution business from C&C for €250m.