March 16: A company controlled by Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing has expressed an interest in buying Thames Water off RWE, the German utility. The company, Cheung Kong Infrastructure, stresses that this it has not yet made a formal bid and that its interest remains at an early stage. RWE has appointed Goldman Sachs to look at its options for Thames but it has said the sale process will not start until the second quarter and will not be completed until next year. An IPO remains an outside possibility.
Corus’s chief executive Philippe Varin is railing against the inefficiencies of the European Union’s energy market, which he blames for a 50 per cent jump in his group’s energy costs over two years. He has also sold Corus’s aluminium business and reported better-than-expected annual profits, helping the stock to a three-year high. Varin is also beginning to talk about sourcing raw steel from places like Brazil, which could raise questions about the future of some of Corus’s UK operations. Read Lex live about why Corus cannot remain the steel industry’s wallflower for long.
A senior team from Nasdaq, including chief executive Bob Greifeld, is in town today beginning a series of meetings with London Stock Exchange investors. They will try to persuade them of the merits of their 950p a share takeover proposal and be listening to what improvements, in price or structure, investors would want. We’ll do our best to let you know how the meetings go.
Mark Tucker seems to have strengthened Prudential’s defences against any takeover approach by producing a strong set of full-year figures. Interestingly, much of growth seems to have come from Asia and the US. That is ironic, given all the resources directed at the UK operation and the controversy that caused.
High stakes for Arun Sarin. The chief executive of Vodafone faces the tantalising prospect of an auction developing for his Japanese investment, what with Cerberus and Providence beginning to get the financing together for a $15bn private equity bid. Sarin’s gamble, however, is that he can entertain that approach without scaring off Softbank, which has already expressed an interest and with which he is further advanced.
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