The following are the day's top business stories:
1. Toronto-Dominion Bank Is Said to Near Accord to Acquire Chrysler Financial 2. Japanese Stocks Rise for First Time in Three Days as Commodity Prices Gain 3. Lend Lease to Acquire Bilfinger's Australia Unit Valemus for $1.05 Billion 4. Mitsui OSK Cuts Bond Debt as Default Swaps Beat Nippon Yusen: Japan Credit 5. Australia's Central Bank Judged Policy `Mildly Restrictive,' Minutes Show 6. NMDC to Acquire Australian Iron Ore Mine as Alliance With Rio Tinto Stalls 7. Norilsk Nickel Sells $3.5 Billion Stake to Trafigura After Pursuing Rusal 8. Hyundai Group's Hyun May See Brother-in-Law Challenge as Builder Bid Fails 9. Sony May Surpass Samsung in India LCD-Television Sales, DisplaySearch Says 10.Japan `Turning Point' to Boost Demand as Companies Save Less: Chart of Day 11.India Can't Find Enough Laborers to Build Roads in $1 Trillion Singh Plan 12.Gold Rush in Nigeria Kills Children as Miners Belatedly Discover Lead Dust
1. Toronto-Dominion Bank Is Said to Near Accord to Acquire Chrysler Financial
Toronto-Dominion Bank is near an agreement to buy Chrysler Financial, the lender once owned by the third-largest U.S. automaker, from Cerberus Capital Management LP, said three people with knowledge of the matter. Toronto-Dominion may announce a deal as soon as tomorrow morning, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private. Toronto-Dominion and Cerberus had been discussing a price of about $6 billion to $7 billion, other people with knowledge of the situation said earlier this month. Canada´s second-largest bank has spent more than C$20 billion ($19.9 billion) expanding in the U.S., including $7.1 billion for Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp Inc. in 2008, the bank´s biggest acquisition. Canadian banks, ranked the soundest by the World Economic Forum for three straight years, are expanding abroad to add lower-priced assets after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Bank of Montreal, the country´s fourth-largest bank, last week announced its biggest acquisition, agreeing to pay $4.1 billion in stock for Marshall & Ilsley Corp., the No. 1 bank in Wisconsin.
2. Japanese Stocks Rise for First Time in Three Days as Commodity Prices Gain
Japanese stocks gained for the first time in three days as commodity prices advanced and analysts raised share-price estimates and ratings on U.S. companies, boosting confidence in a global economic recovery. Komatsu Ltd., the world´s second-biggest maker of construction and mining equipment, gained 1.1 percent. Sony Corp., an electronics maker, increased 1 percent. Mitsubishi Corp., Japan´s biggest commodities trader, and Mitsui & Co., a trading company that counts commodities as its biggest source of profit, both gained 0.5 percent. "Consensus is forming that the global economy is gradually getting better," said Kenichi Hirano, general manager and strategist at Tachibana Securities Co. "Growth in the world economy is boosting commodity prices, and surplus money is going into commodities and stocks." The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.6 percent to 10,277.67 as of 9:02 a.m. in Tokyo. The broader Topix index gained 0.4 percent to 902.32, with about eight shares advancing for every five that declined.
3. Lend Lease to Acquire Bilfinger's Australia Unit Valemus for $1.05 Billion
Lend Lease Group, Australia´s largest developer, will buy Bilfinger Berger SE´s Australian unit Valemus Ltd. for A$1.06 billion ($1.05 billion), the German construction company said today. The sale, which is subject to approval from Australian anti-trust authorities, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2011, according to a regulatory filing. Lend Lease shares jumped 3.8 percent to A$8.57 at 10:36 a.m. Bilfinger, based in Mannheim, Germany, pulled a planned initial public offering for Valemus in July to raise as much as A$1.39 billion after investors balked at the price. The purchase will allow Lend Lease, which is building the A$6 billion Barangaroo South financial precinct in Sydney, the biggest development project in Australia, to expand its road, rail and other construction businesses, the Sydney-based company said in a separate filing. "It´s a good strategic move for Lend Lease to increase exposure to Australian engineering construction before the expected large upswing in activities," Will Seddon, who helps manage about $350 million at White Funds Management Pty in Sydney, said in an e-mail. "From Bilfinger Berger´s perspective whether this was a better option isn´t all that clear. An IPO may have done a lot better in the current market, potentially netting them more."
4. Mitsui OSK Cuts Bond Debt as Default Swaps Beat Nippon Yusen: Japan Credit
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., operator of the world´s largest merchant fleet, is slashing debt as global trade recovers, driving the cost of protecting its bonds against default below the levels of its rivals. Five-year contracts to insure Mitsui O.S.K. debt declined to 64 basis points on Dec. 17 from 141 at the end of last year, according to CMA prices. Five-year contracts for Nippon Yusen K.K. were 65 basis points, and those for Malaysia´s MISC Bhd., the world´s second-biggest shipper by market capitalization, traded at 75 basis points, down from 91 at the end of 2009. Mitsui O.S.K. will reduce debt for the first time in four years as a recovery in global trade boosts cash flow and profit, Shugo Aoto, head of finance, said in an interview at the company´s Tokyo headquarters last month. "We´re cash rich," Aoto said. Global trade will climb 11.4 percent this year after slumping 11 percent in 2009, the International Monetary Fund forecast on Oct. 6. Mitsui will likely cut interest-bearing debt to 750 billion yen ($8.9 billion) by the end of March, from 775 billion yen a year earlier and below the company´s 770 billion yen target, Aoto said.
5. Australia's Central Bank Judged Policy `Mildly Restrictive,' Minutes Show
The Reserve Bank of Australia left interest rates unchanged two weeks ago because policy was judged to be "mildly restrictive" given signs of consumer caution and few inflation pressures, minutes of its Dec. 7 meeting showed. Household "restraint, if it continued, would provide some scope for investment to rise without causing aggregate demand to grow too quickly and inflationary pressures to build," according to the minutes, released today in Sydney. After the November rate rise and an increase in the nation´s currency, "monetary policy was judged to be mildly restrictive." RBA Governor Glenn Stevens left the overnight cash rate target at 4.75 percent after seven increases since October 2009. Higher borrowing costs helped slow third-quarter growth and savings has risen, even as a surge in energy and mining investment keeps unemployment at about half the near-10 percent U.S. jobless rate. "Members observed that the restraint being shown by households, and the pick-up in the saving rate, would help reduce the medium-term risk from household balance sheets after a long period when debt ratios had risen, and would help to make room for the expected increase in investment," the minutes said.
6. NMDC to Acquire Australian Iron Ore Mine as Alliance With Rio Tinto Stalls
NMDC Ltd., India´s biggest iron-ore producer, plans to buy a mine in Australia after an alliance with Rio Tinto Group to jointly purchase and develop reserves in India and overseas stalled. The acquisition, NMDC´s first outside India, will be completed in about two months, Chairman Rana Som said in a phone interview, without disclosing the price. Rio Tinto spokesman Gervase Greene declined to comment. The purchase comes after the initial agreement with Rio Tinto, agreed two years ago, failed to make "headway because of a lack of synergy," Som said. Limited expansion opportunities in India because of violence by Maoist rebels and delays in granting permits for new mines prompted NMDC to look offshore. "In India, iron ore is a case of water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink," said Prasad Baji, an analyst at Edelweiss Securities Pvt. in Mumbai. "Approvals aren´t coming for new mines and the Maoists are making operations difficult at existing ones. State governments are more likely to grant new leases to steel companies rather than mining companies. So, what does a company like NMDC do? Look overseas."
7. Norilsk Nickel Sells $3.5 Billion Stake to Trafigura After Pursuing Rusal
OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, the mining company whose largest holders are locked in a dispute, agreed to sell $3.5 billion of stock to commodities trader Trafigura Beheer BV as analysts signaled a possible end to the feud. Norilsk will sell an 8 percent stake in the form of American depositary receipts to gain funds for "general purposes," the Moscow-based company said yesterday in a statement. Trafigura has no plans to increase its holding to more than 10 percent, Norilsk said. Billionaire shareholders Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin have bickered over influence on Norilsk´s board and use of cash in a feud dating back to 2008. Norilsk last week offered $12 billion to buy back the 25 percent stake held by Deripaska´s United Co. Rusal, and yesterday´s accord would provide cash for such a deal, according to Nomura Holdings Plc. "The sale of treasury stock may indicate that Norilsk is going ahead with its plan to buy out" Rusal, said Vladimir Zhukov, an analyst at Nomura in Moscow. Selling 8 percent would also keep Norilsk below the 30 percent threshold that triggers a mandatory offer to minority holders, he said.
8. Hyundai Group's Hyun May See Brother-in-Law Challenge as Builder Bid Fails
Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong Eun failed in an attempt to buy a stake in South Korea´s largest builder, opening up a possible challenge for control of her biggest company from her billionaire brother-in-law. Shareholders selling 35 percent of Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. said yesterday they would end talks with Hyundai Group because of concerns about its funding plans. They may now open negotiations with Hyundai Motor Group, which lost out in the initial auction last month. The automaker is headed by Hyun´s late husband´s brother, Chung Mong Koo. The collapse of Hyun´s bid endangers her grip on Seoul- based Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., her group´s biggest unit and the holder of controlling stakes in seven affiliates, as Hyundai Engineering owns 8.3 percent of the shipping line. Getting hold of that stake and combining it with shares already controlled by relatives could enable Chung to build a block in Hyundai Merchant almost as big as Hyun´s. "Hyundai Group put everything and more into buying Hyundai Engineering because the fate of the group is on the line," said Byun Sung Jin, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co. in Seoul. "This deal from the beginning was a family fight."
9. Sony May Surpass Samsung in India LCD-Television Sales, DisplaySearch Says
Sony Corp., struggling to return its television business to profit, may pass Samsung Electronics Co. this year as the top seller of flat-screen TVs in India, the fastest-growing major market, researcher DisplaySearch said. In a shift from an earlier strategy that focused on India´s wealthiest shoppers, Sony has gained market share by offering cheaper models and expanding its distribution network, Hisakazu Torii, a Tokyo-based analyst at DisplaySearch, said in an interview yesterday. The maker of Bravia TVs last year ranked third in India behind Samsung and LG Electronics Inc., he said. "We´re finally starting to see the fruits of Sony´s efforts to strengthen its brand image and its sales network," Torii said. "There´s a real possibility they could take the top share for the year." Sony´s push in India is part of a larger move by Japanese companies including Toshiba Corp., who are following South Korean rivals in expanding into emerging markets. Still, a weak consumer recovery in the U.S. and Europe, Sony´s traditional strongholds, may prevent Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer from ending a six-year losing streak at the TV business.
10.Japan `Turning Point' to Boost Demand as Companies Save Less: Chart of Day
Japan´s economy may get a boost from capital spending next year as companies start to pare their savings and banks become more optimistic about lending, according to Takuji Aida at UBS AG. The CHART OF THE DAY shows the quarterly change in corporate savings as a ratio of Japan´s gross domestic product, calculated by UBS based on Bank of Japan flow of funds data released Dec. 17. Companies will start saving at a slower pace next year, UBS forecasts. Capital spending as measured by GDP and the BOJ´s Tankan survey of financial institutions´ willingness to lend are also shown. An increase in domestic demand would reduce Japan´s reliance on exports, a driver of growth that has been slowing because of the yen´s 11 percent climb against the dollar this year. When the BOJ´s Tankan index of bank lending attitudes turns positive, companies tend to draw down their large savings on forward-looking business activities, Aida said. "Next year we´re going to see savings rates fall, and that paves the way for an increase in domestic demand" because it shows companies are willing to spend, said Aida, a senior Japan economist at UBS in Tokyo. "We´re nearing a turning point," where domestic demand will start supporting growth, he said.
11.India Can't Find Enough Laborers to Build Roads in $1 Trillion Singh Plan
Vimla, 26, wipes the dust from her forehead with a faded blue sari and fills a round metal dish with broken stones that she carries, barefoot, across a building site as part of the construction of New Delhi´s Metro. "My job doesn´t need any training," said Vimla, who only uses one name. She would have to make about 800 trips to carry the load of India´s most common small dump truck. Pointing to her supervisor, a man in a hard hat, she says: "I do what he says. If I was educated, maybe I could do his job." Builders including Larsen & Toubro Ltd., India´s biggest engineering company, say that while India has millions of unskilled workers like Vimla, it doesn´t have enough trained masons, carpenters and machine operators needed to construct the roads, railways and ports it needs. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last month that infrastructure is the biggest bottleneck to faster economic growth. His government plans to spend $1 trillion to boost the expansion rate to 10 percent, from 7.4 percent last fiscal year.
12.Gold Rush in Nigeria Kills Children as Miners Belatedly Discover Lead Dust
Gold fever brought death to Umoru Musa´s nine-family compound in Sunke, a mud-brick village in northern Nigeria. Five of the 25 children, including Musa´s 1-year-old daughter Nafisa, lost their lives in May after villagers ground ore from nearby hills they didn´t know were also loaded with lead. Rising prices for gold promised a windfall. Instead, they helped unleash the deadliest lead-poisoning crisis in modern medical history. As the adults pulverized rocks with their grain grinder, they spewed lead dust across the ground where their children played and poultry grazed. They spread more of the material, lethal to children in high doses, around the communal well where they washed the ore to sift out the gold. "This gold cost us a lot," Musa, 40, said in the open-air courtyard of his home last month as a clean-up team in white respirator masks cleared away lead-laden dirt. "There is nothing God can give that is better than a human being."
-0- Dec/21/2010 00:35 GMT