Rumor Mill: Mergers and Acquisitions in Question

Wall Street is closing some deals this week, (See “DONE DEAL! M&A Activity of the Week“), but the rumor mongers are also at large. Here’s your Cheat Sheet to the top mergers and acquisitions in the rumor mill:

  • Infor, a privately held software company, and its major stakeholder Golden Gate Capital, are circling the wagons around Lawson Software (NASDAQ:LWSN).  The two made an unsolicited bid for Lawson at $1.8 billion, or $11.25 per share.  The two are apparently talking, and other bidders could be in the wing, including Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), and SAP (NYSE:SAP).
  • Vivendi (VIV.PA) owns a majority stake in SFR, France’s second-largest mobile phone operator, but doesn’t want to pay more than $9.6 billion for the remaining stake from Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).  Someone will have to budge, because the two companies are SFR’s only shareholders.  Yet, Vivendi’s CEO said he would “definitely walk away” if the price remains too high.  Sounds like a bluff.
  • Behemoth pharmaceutical company Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) wants to spin off a bunch of its core businesses in order to get back to basics.  It wants to focus on being a “pure-play” pharmaceutical company that solely designs new drugs, and may cut as much as half of its $67 billion annual sales.
  • Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) may be doing a deal itself: after Litton Loan Servicing, its mortgage-servicing business, didn’t do that well this past year, the company has decided to try to find a buyer.  Goldman bought the unit in 2007 in the hopes that it would provide a steady revenue stream, but all of the regulatory issues, along with its disappointing performance, played into the company’s decision to sell.
  • Here’s an intriguing rumor.  Heritage Oil (HOIL.L), an oil and gas exploration company, received an informal takeover offer from a company based in Abu Dhabi. The thing is, we don’t know yet who this company is.  Heritage rejected the offer, but the company’s shares received a much-needed boost after its stock price suffered in January, when it discovered gas in the Miran West field instead of the oil it expected to find.
  • Indian home-care company Jyothy Laboratories (JYOTHYLAB.BO) will submit a bid to acquire Henkel’s (HEN3.DE) approximate 51 percent stake in Henkel India.  Henkel has been trying to sell off its Indian venture, even though previously it had tried to compete with Unilever’s (NYSE:UL) Indian venture, Hindustan Unilever.
  • General Mills (NYSE:GIS) and Yoplait are now reported to be exclusive, but France isn’t too happy about it. PAI Partners and French dairy co-op Sodiaal, the owners of Yoplait, want to sell half of their stake for $1.1 billion to settle a management dispute and tap developing markets.  However, France, which is concerned with job security and foreign involvement in the dairy industry, threatened to get a sovereign fund involved (possibly FSI).  Note that General Mills’ pick in Yoplait isn’t random: it owns the right to sell yogurt under Yoplait’s name in the U.S., but General Mills and Yolplait’s owners haven’t been in agreement about the royalty payments.
  • Metlife (NYSE:MET), which has been trying to sell its Taiwan life insurance business, may get at least three interested local bidders, including Mercuries Life Insurance, Chinatrust Financial, and Yuanta Financial.  The deal would likely be pretty small, given that last year regulators rejected a deal with Waterland Financial for $112 million.
  • The Mets, under the services of Allen & Co., are seeking buyers for a minority interest in the team to pay off debt.  Major League Baseball okayed at least three bidders, including one led by David Heller of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Marc Spilker of Apollo, and another group including Steve Starker, one of the founders of global-trading firm BTIG and Ken Dichter, one founder of Marquis Jet.

Interact: Which deals do you think will get done? Which are just PR from hedge funds and traders? Let us know in the comments below …