Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three brief items

1. Biogen Idec Gets Some Support

Carl Icahn is waging a classic dissidents' campaign for three seats of the board of Biogen Idec, a biopharmaceutical concern.

Biogen is a Nasdaq-listed company HQed in Cambridge, Mass. Cambridge, moreover, is where the annual meeting will be held, this coming Thursday.

In recent days, the major proxy-advisory concerns have generally lined upin support of the incumbent board, though.

Riskmetrics: "The dissident has not met its burden of proving that board change is warranted at Biogen. Abesent a showing that the incumbent board has failed in some fashion, we find it difficult to support the removal of directors."

Glass Lewis: "In our opinion the current board and executives have created substantial value for shareholders and we believe that the Company has solid growth opportunities as a stand-alone entity."

2. Clumsy France Telecom ultimatum

Meanwhile overseas. On June 5, France Telecom rather brusquely informed a Swedish company, TeliaSonera, that they'd better commence "friendly" talks with regard to a takeover. Or else. The "or else what" part was left unspoken.

But the statement was sufficiently undiplomatic to create a backlash, and the Financial Times is reporting that there is a risk of "the type of nationalist backlash that scuppered Renault's attempts to buy Volvo in the 1990s. So France Telecom has now sensibly decided on a more softly-softly approach."

Softly-softly or otherwise, TeliaSonera is so far unswayed.

3. Who will feed the Clydesdales?

This is likely not the first place you've heard this, or the twentieth, but: a Brazilian-Belgian beer company, InBev, wants to buy Anheuser-Busch. It's offering US$46 billion [30 billion euros).

There are obvious economies-of-scale considerations in the brewing business which are said to have created the recent wave of consolidation. The larger brewing companies can cut the better deals for raw materials, and can economize on the distribution network as well. But I have to wonder if that fully explains recent developments.

Another random point: We always see some Busch family scion on the television commercials (when they aren't showing us their beautiful horses). But I wonder ... how much of the company does the family still own? I'll have to look into that in the days ahead.

At any rate, here some further discussion.

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