Amazon in talks to buy TI mobile chip arm: paper

SEATTLE, Mon Oct 15, 2012 – Amazon.Com Inc. is in advanced talks to buy the supplier of chips for its Kindle tablet computer, Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist reported on Monday, in what could mark a step in the company’s ambitions in the smartphone sector.

The report said any deal for the smartphone chip business of Texas Instruments Inc. would probably be worth billions of dollars and could make Amazon a direct rival to Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which also design their own chips.

“It would make sense, as the chip is a critical component and Amazon has an existing relationship with TI,” said Ovum analyst Nick Dillon.

TI’s chips are used in Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had underlined TI’s strength in the industry at the tablet’s recent launch.

“With the trend towards more vertical integration, led by Apple, speculation that Amazon is interested in TI’s chipset arm is unsurprising,” said Ben Wood, head of research at British wireless consultancy CCS Insight.

But some analysts questioned whether it would make sense for Amazon to spend billions on the business when many smaller and independent smartphone chip makers are reporting steep losses.

TI has flagged its plans to exit the business.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said she doubted whether Amazon wants to “become that intimately involved with hardware.”

TI said last month it would shift its wireless investment focus from products like smartphones to a broader market including industrial clients such as carmakers, where it is hoping for a more profitable and stable business.

UnitedHealth to buy most of Brazil’s Amil for $4.9 billion

NEW YORK, Mon Oct 8, 2012 – UnitedHealth Group Inc said it would buy a 90 percent stake in Amil Participacoes SA, Brazil’s largest health insurer and hospital operator, for $4.9 billion, tapping into a fast-growing private healthcare market as challenges mount for its U.S. business.

The deal announced on Monday follows a series of multibillion-dollar takeovers by U.S. health insurers in their home market, including Aetna Inc.’s $5.6 billion buy of rival Coventry Health Care Inc. and WellPoint Inc.’s planned $4.5 billion purchase of Amerigroup Corp.

“(Brazil’s) growing economy, emerging middle class and progressive policies toward managed care make it a high- potential growth market,” UnitedHealth Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley said in a statement.

U.S. health insurers have come under pressure as the government reins in reimbursement for its Medicaid and Medicare programs for the poor and the elderly and as competition grows among health plans serving employers.

The deal with Amil adds to a growing international business at UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer. The company has begun operations or struck alliances in Australia, the Middle East and the UK during the past two years.

Buying the stake in Amil gives UnitedHealth a chance to test a different model of medical service: Amil offers insurance coverage and also runs hospitals and doctor facilities. While some examples of this already exist in the United States, the largest U.S. insurance companies for the most part operate separately from networks of doctors and other healthcare providers.

Microsoft nears deal to buy Yammer: source

REDMOND, Wash., Mon Jun 18, 2012 7—Microsoft Corp. is close to buying business software company Yammer Inc for more than $1 billion, according to a source familiar with the details.

Microsoft’s interest in Yammer, known for its social networking functions, could allow the software giant to beef up its offerings for corporations.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment. A representative from Yammer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Backed by PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel, Yammer said it counts more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies as clients. It raised more than $140 million in venture capital funding.

Bloomberg, which first reported the deal, said the announcement about the transaction was expected at the end of June.

Thomas H. Lee buys most of Party City retailer

BOSTON, Tue Jun 5, 2012 – Private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners will buy a majority stake in Party City, North America’s largest retailer of party goods such as balloons and Halloween costumes, in a deal that values the company at $2.7 billion.

The retailer’s current private equity owners — Advent International Corp, Berkshire Partners LLC and Weston Presidio — as well as Party City management will have “significant minority stakes” in the company after the deal, according to a statement released by all the firms on Tuesday.

WellPoint To buy 1-800 Contacts for $900 million, according to report

INDIANAPOLIS, Mon Jun 4, 2012 –  Health insurer WellPoint Inc. plans to buy contact-lens and eyewear retailer 1-800 Contacts Inc. for a transaction value close to $900 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The deal will close in the third quarter and will start adding to the company’s per-share earnings in 2014, the Journal said in its report. The deal will be financed with cash on hand, the report said.

“We see a unique way of tying 1-800 Contacts into our product design,” WellPoint Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt is quoted as saying in the report.

WellPoint would also get “a diversified revenue stream into a higher-margin business,” the report said, quoting the CFO.

1-800 Contacts has after-tax margins in the “double digit range,” compared with around 4 percent to 5 percent across WellPoint’s health-insurance business lines, the report quoted DeVeydt as saying.

WellPoint and 1-800 Contacts Inc. could not reached for comments.

Eaton to buy electrical equipment maker Cooper Industries for $11.8 billion

CLEVELAND, Mon May 21, 2012 – Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp. agreed to buy electrical equipment maker Cooper Industries Plc for $11.8 billion in cash and stock, its biggest-ever acquisition, a move that will lower Eaton’s taxes by shifting its incorporation to Ireland.

Eaton will pay $72 per share for Cooper: $39.15 in cash and the rest in stock. Eaton shareholders will control almost three-quarters of the new Eaton Global Corp Plc.

Cooper shares were up 27 percent at $70.89 in morning trading, the day’s biggest gainer on the New York Stock Exchange, while Eaton stock was up 1.1 percent at $42.88.

The Eton-Cooper agreement would be the biggest deal of several mergers announced on Monday. Analysts said this was one way for companies to grow in a sluggish global economy.

“It drives the point home that acquisitions are an increasingly important growth avenue in a slow-growth world,” said analyst Matt Collins of Edward Jones.

“Record low interest rates and solid balance sheets make it that much easier to get deals done. Overall I wouldn’t say that it necessarily means anything strategically for other companies in the space, other than more of the same consolidation is likely,” Collins said.

The pricing appears to be fair or “slightly expensive,” valuing Cooper at 11.5 times projected earnings, JP Morgan analyst Ann Duignan said.

The deal will allow Eaton to better participate in an electrical market that is expected to benefit from investment to modernize aging power grids in both mature and developing economies. It will also allow Eaton to expand into lighting and lighting controls, a market poised to benefit from a rebound in commercial construction.

Eaton also cited expected growth from the oil and gas industry, which both Cooper and Eaton serve.

DaVita eyes new markets with $4.4 billion HealthCare deal

DENVER, Mon May 21, 2012 – DaVita Inc., the biggest U.S. operator of dialysis clinics, has agreed to buy privately-held HealthCare Partners for about $4.42 billion in cash and stock to expand into new markets to help offset potential revenue pressures in its main business.

HealthCare Partners, based in Torrance, California, runs medical groups and physician networks in Southern California, Central Florida, and Southern Nevada. Its revenues in 2011 were about $2.4 billion.

The company provides its services to more than 667,000 patients and has total care dollars under management of about $3.3 billion, DaVita said.

The deal follows changes to the way healthcare companies are reimbursed by U.S. state-run health insurer Medicare which could put pressure on revenues across the industry.

Medicare changed its reimbursement model last year to encourage clinic operators to reduce costs and use drugs more sparingly. It no longer pays for individual services and drugs but instead makes a lump-sum payment per dialysis session, as long as patients are kept in good health.

Analysts have said this favors large players such as DaVita and its biggest rival FMC, the U.S. arm of Germany’s Fresenius Medical Care, because they are better placed to cut costs, but it also creates revenue pressures.

DaVita Chief Executive Kent Thiry said DaVita was currently focused on integrated care for specialized kidney care services. “HealthCare Partners executes on that same mission across a full and deep array of healthcare services in three geographic markets.”

Wells Fargo’s play for prime brokerage prompts skepticism

As Wells Fargo becomes a bigger player in the investment banking game, not everyone is a fan.

Moody’s Investors Service, the rating agency, raised concerns on Monday about the bank’s recent move outside its comfort zone of consumer lending. Moody’s directed criticism at the bank for stepping into prime brokerage, calling the bank’s recent acquisition of the midsize company Merlin Securities “credit negative.”

Wells Fargo agreed to buy Merlin last month for an undisclosed sum, making it the last of the nation’s biggest banks to enter prime brokerage, the lucrative business that caters to hedge funds and other big investors. Prime brokers provide a broad array of services, including cash management, execution of leveraged trades and securities lending.

Moody’s expressed concern the Merlin takeover “signals that Wells Fargo intends to expand its” investment banking business. “Though Merlin is small and has a limited balance sheet, we expect that Wells Fargo will build this business and seek to expand its products and services,” Moody’s said in the report.

Fitch, one of Moody’s top competitors, offered a softer interpretation of the deal. While Wells Fargo “may use Merlin as a platform for further expansion, the transaction is still viewed as relatively small in nature,” Fitch said last week.

In a statement, Wells Fargo defended the deal and challenged the Moody’s assessment.

Dura-Line Holdings acquires PolyPipe Holdings

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Mon Apr 16, 2012 – Dura-Line Holdings Inc., a portfolio company of Chicago-based CHS CapitalTM, has completed the acquisition of PolyPipe Holdings Inc. Dura-Line is a portfolio investment of CHS Private Equity V LP, a $1.3 billion investment fund.

Headquartered in Gainesville, Texas, PolyPipe is one of the largest independent North American manufacturers of pressure-rated high density polyethylene pipe for diverse infrastructure applications in the energy, natural gas distribution, water/sewer, nuclear power, mining and industrial segments with strong brand recognition. Dura-Line will integrate PolyPipe into its current U.S. regional operations. The combined company will have 12 manufacturing facilities of HDPE duct and conduit in the U.S. and 19 worldwide.

Dura-Line is a global leader of HDPE conduit, duct and pressure pipe solutions for telecom, energy and infrastructure-related markets. Dura-Line serves customers in 50 countries and is the exclusive provider for many of the world’s leading telecom companies.

Paresh Chari, president and CEO of Dura-Line, said, “With its significant market share, national presence and differentiated products and capabilities, PolyPipe will position us to further strengthen our footprint in the U.S. Together, we will continue to provide our customers with best-in-class service and a versatile product line.”

Devon Energy Corp. raises 2012 spending by $1 billion, targets oil

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., Wed Apr 4, 2012 – Devon Energy Corp. will spend $1 billion more than planned this year on acreage acquisition and exploration in shale basins that produce oil and more profitable natural gas with a high liquids content, the company said on Wednesday.

Devon, like most other U.S. exploration and production companies, is shifting capital away from natural gas drilling in a time when prices for that fuel are at a decade low. Energy companies are instead targeting crude oil trapped in rock like shale and natural gas that can be stripped of valuable liquids like propane.

“We’re very confident that there are a lot of oil and liquids-rich opportunities to be found in North America,” Dave Hager, Devon’s head of exploration and production, told analysts.

In addition to previously announced exploration plans in emerging basins like the Utica Shale in Ohio, Devon said it has amassed 500,000 acres in the Cline shale in West Texas that holds oil. Devon is also targeting oil on another 250,000 acres in an unspecified location and the company hopes to increase that position to 500,000 acres, Hager said in remarks broadcast over the Internet.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company now plans to spend $6.1 billion to $6.5 billion this year, up $1 billion from its original budget.

Devon has no plans to use its $7.1 billion cash pile on a large acquisition as some have speculated, said John Richels, the company’s chief executive officer.

Richels said he and other executives at Devon have not spent “five minutes” thinking about a big acquisition. Instead, the company’s cash will be invested in exploration and production projects, Richels said.