Tag: Daimler Chrysler

The Seven Secrets of Successful Globalization

A fashionable consensus among MBA students, managers and luminaries such as Colin Powell, George Soros and Tom Friedman, to name but a few, has been building around the notion that the world is globalized–that borders don’t matter at all.

But fashion is no substitute for the facts–so consider some data about globalization.

Despite the perception that people, money, trade and information are more mobile than ever before, the reality is somewhat different.

Take people. First-generation immigrants represent only 3% of the world’s population and the percentage of the world’s population comprised of immigrants is the same as it was in 1910

In terms of financial flows, foreign direct investment is about 10% of global fixed capital formation. FDI-intensity bounces around with merger and acquisition activity, but has never exceeded 20%. Some pre-crisis measures of cross-border capital flows/stocks are actually comparable to earlier peaks more than 100 years ago–and thanks to the crisis, are now lower.

Information is also characterized as global. Yet less than 20% of the bits transmitted on the Internet cross national borders. And the international and particularly the intercontinental component of Internet traffic is decreasing rather than increasing.

And as for products and services, international trade accounts for close to 30% of global GDP, but that percentage recedes back toward 20% if we strip out double counting. And while trade-intensity has been setting new records, the big drop-off in 2009 is a reminder that trends can be reversed.

Many of these cross-border flows are non-negligible, but if the world is truly flat, one would expect to see values in the 80-100% range. Given the evidence above, there is also no evidence that a flat world is on the horizon.

Instead of viewing the world as a collection of standalone countries neatly divided by clearly marked borders  (a worldview that I refer to as World 1.0) or as completely integrated and borderless (World 2.0), we need to think of the world in terms of countries that are embedded in space, at varying distances from each other (World 3.0). In World 3.0, linkages between countries can be substantial (unlike World 1.0), but the countries themselves remain distinct and the world diverse (unlike World 2.0).

Focusing on such distances or differences and how to deal with them is to unlock what, to use an acronym, seem to be the seven “secrets” of successful globalization.

1. Sensitivity to differences.

Overlooking international differences is a recipe for one-size-fits-all strategies. Thus, when former Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was asked in 2003 why he thought the retailer could succeed internationally, he responded that: “People said we would struggle when we left Arkansas and got to places like Alabama.”

With this attitude, Wal-Mart profited only in markets close to home–Canada, Mexico and the UK–and made losses elsewhere. It has since realized that the farther it goes from home, the more it has to change its domestic strategy. This has long been clear to more successful globalizers: thus, McDonalds offers lamb burgers in India, the McShawarma in Israel, and the Bulgogi Burger in South Korea.

2. Evaluation of cross-border moves.

In the presence of large differences, cross-border moves cannot be taken for granted. Yet 90% of the respondents to an online survey Harvard Business Review conducted for me agreed that global expansion is an imperative rather than an option to be evaluated.

Such simple faith underpins disasters such as the Daimler-Chrysler mega-merger, which was clearly problematic when it was conceived. The proposed cost savings were focused on selling, general and administrative expenses, excluding advertising, which amounted to only 7% of revenues, and were clearly offset by a host of cost penalties and differentiation-related problems.

But it was justified anyway on the grounds that the car industry was getting more concentrated (which is, by the way, untrue). Smart companies, in contrast, look carefully at the costs as well as benefits of a cross-border expansion.

3. Closeness versus distance.

Foreign countries are neither equally far (as World 1.0 emphasizes) nor equally close (as World 2.0 would have it). Rather, as the maps presented at the bottom of this article indicate, some are much closer than others–with the clear implications that where you are from should affect where you go, and that if you do go very far from home, you need to pay more attention to the greater distances that intervene.

Consider US companies that operate in just one foreign country: for 60%, that country is Canada, and for another 10%, the UK. And companies from the EU are more likely to enter other EU countries before they look elsewhere.

Yet 50-60% of the respondents to my online survey agreed that a “truly global” company has no home base and that it should attempt to compete everywhere.

4. Regional realities.

Whether one looks at trade, FDI, phone calls or immigrants, 50-60% of international flows take place within continental regions rather than across them.

From a company perspective, even among the Fortune Global 500, nearly 90% derive more than half of their sales (an average of 80%, actually) from their home regions.

Many of the very few companies with a big presence in more than one region often take a regional approach to global strategy. Thus, Toyota relies on regional hubs, platforms and mandates to achieve some cross-border economies of scale but doesn’t attempt to push them farther by being “truly global” because of differences in fuel prices and protectionism.

5. Economic arbitrage.

Cross-country differences aren’t just a constraint but also a potential source of value creation.

Arbitrage strategies that exploit wage differences are the most talked-about globalization story of our time but are probably still underplayed. For example, Wal-Mart’s gains from procurement in China are several times as large as profits from all its international stores.

Then there is capital arbitrage of the sort evident in listing shares on foreign stock exchanges to tap into foreign pools of capital. And tax arbitrage is practiced by most major multinationals, even though they are loath to talk about it much.

6. Timing.

Timing is a hallmark of successful global strategies in a number of different ways. One manifestation as noted above, is sequencing: companies often start with markets that are relatively close or similar before moving to others that are farther away that present much more difficult challenges.

Another involves exploiting downturns: Cemex, the global buildings materials supplier, for instance, typically waited for the bottom of local construction cycles to buy into new markets. The more frequent approach, however is to expand at times of euphoria about globalization–as Cemex did recently when it purchased Rinker, and which is why it is now having to restructure.

7. Strategy options.

Adaptation to differences, aggregation at the regional level (or on some other basis) and arbitrage are just some of the strategy options touched on in this article. Recognition of the full set of options–instead of simply treating globalization as a matter of cloning the domestic business model everywhere–is essential to increasing the odds of global success, and to maximizing value creation.

Pankaj Ghemawat is the Anselmo Rubiralta Professor of Global Strategy at IESE Business School in Barcelona.  The arguments and data above derive from his book, “World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It,” recently published by Harvard Business Review Press.  His website is www.ghemawat.com where you can see more than 200 of his globalization maps.

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Daniel Howes

Daniel Howes
War of words in auto circles shouldnt come as surprise

With apologies to Captain Renault in Casablanca, you should be shocked, shocked to read that Detroit auto executives talk smack and privately throw F-bombs at one another.

Next thing you know, theyll be lobbying reporters (off-the-record, natch) to file negative stories about the competition, their nonexistent strategies and the crappy cars and trucks theyre trying to foist on an unsuspecting public.

Oh, wait, they do that, too.

In a new book on Detroits implosion and the collapse of two automakers into bankruptcy, my former colleague Bill Vlasic now Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times gives voice to some of the industrys less circumspect personalities and shows just how titanic rivalries can produce such petty potshots.

Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.s vice president of global marketing, sales and service, is quoted as saying in a preproduction version of Vlasics book obtained by The Detroit News:

F— GM. I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way theyre succeeding. Ford is back because people trust us. And that is a powerful message. Im going to beat Chevrolet on the head with bat. And Im going to enjoy it.

Ooooo. If youve spent any time at all on the phone or over coffee with Ford execs, their PR staffers or just about anyone else associated with the only Detroit automaker free from the taint of an Obama Treasury department bailout, trash talking like that and worse is common because its been happening, industrywide, forever.

Farleys sin, if he committed one at all, is one of candor which hes committed often in equally barbed comments about his former employer, Toyota Motor Corp.

Welcome to the big leagues. In a fiercely competitive industry where the only things larger than executive comp packages are executive egos, the twin urges to always be right and to rhetorically destroy rivals are exceeded only by the hunger for ever larger executive comp packages and adoration in the media.

Vlasic also quotes Ford scion (and executive chairman) Bill Ford Jr. as saying GM can be so arrogant. We were known as a culture of infighting. And they are a culture of arrogance.

Exactly which part of that indictment, leveled by someone who ought to know, isnt true? GM arrogant? Um, yeah, even now. Ford beset by infighting? When has Ford, whose internal politics he once described as more Byzantine than czarist Russia, not been riven by internal politicking, backstabbing and flattery of Ford family members?

With the arguable exception of the era of Alan Mulally who doesnt tolerate infighting or trashing rivals Fords cultural tendency toward automotive superiority in the smallish pond of Detroit is deeply embedded.

But its not exclusive, witness General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akersons recent benediction for Fords Lincoln brand in comments to The News. Or the time GMs retired manufacturing chief, Gary Cowger, told me in Wiesbaden, Germany, more than a decade ago that Chrysler was holding a fire sale of excess inventory.

His prescient observation, offered with scant acknowledgment of GMs own steadily mounting problems, culminated in Chrysler posting its first operating loss in a decade. The resulting mess also began the unwinding of the disastrous Daimler-Chrysler union.

Then theres Volkswagen AG, the bad-boy pot-stirrer of the global auto business. Of course, CEO Martin Winterkorn understood the likely turmoil from his recent suggestion that GMs Adam Opel AG unit a direct competitor to VW across Europe would be a better fit with, say, Hyundai of South Korea.

Which is exactly why he did it. Its classic: level the criticism, walk it back and get the desired effect nevertheless. In a 24-7 globally wired cloud, its there to stay, somewhere.

And theres Sergio Marchionne, the Italian-born and Canadian-bred CEO of Chrysler Group LLC. A Detroit auto show or two ago, I asked him what he thought about VWs future goal to produce 10 million vehicles a year. His response: We saw that movie. Its called World War II.

The surprise isnt that these captains of industry verbally bludgeon one another outside the confines of scrums and interviews. The surprise is that any of it would be considered shocking or crass in a world that traffics in much worse every hour of every day.

dchowes@detnews.com

(313) 222-2106

Daniel Howes? column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

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The industrious brain behind Nissan

By KENNETH KWAMA

Aikawa was confident that the new company could manufacture vehicles because he had visited the US in 1908 and studied the technology used to manufacture vehicles there.

Yoshisuke Aikawa, the man who founded Nissan was an industrious man who built his empire by forging close working relationships with people or companies he felt could add value to his ventures.

When he was about 20 years old, Aikawa made a trip to the US where he researched malleable cast iron. When he returned to Japan, he established an iron company called Tobata Foundry in 1909. Today, the firm is known as the Hitachi Metals Company. He expanded his interests in that industry and in 1928 he became the president of Kuhara Mining Company, now the Nippon Mining and Metals Company.

In 1928, Aikawa founded a company called Nippon Sangyo (the name Nissan is derived from the first letters of the two names). The company had two subsidiaries — Tobata Casting and Hitachi. During this time Nissan, controlled foundries and auto parts businesses, but Aikawa did not come into the scene until 1933.

In 1934, Aikawa started a separate automobile parts division and named the new subsidiary Nissan Motor Company Ltd. Initially, the shareholders were not enthusiastic about the prospects of the

automobile company in Japan, and because of this, they sold all their shares to Aikawa.

Aikawa was confident that the new company could manufacture vehicles because he had visited the US in 1908 and studied the technology used to manufacture vehicles there.

He planned to use the same cutting edge auto-making technologies that were popular in America to manufacture vehicles in Japan.

However, it was American designer, William R. Gorham who carried out this plan. All the machinery, vehicle designs and engine designs were taken from the US. Much of the tooling came from the Graham factory and with the help of a Graham license, Nissan used to manufacture trucks. The machinery was imported into Japan by Mitsubishi on behalf of Nissan, states www.nissan-pathfinder.com

World war.

In 1935, the first car was rolled out from the Yokohama plant and Nissan also started exporting vehicles to Australia. In 1936, as World War II approached, the company cut back on production of cars and started producing military trucks. This was a change in product portfolio to match the shift in needs. After the war, many of Nissan’s former auto dealers moved over to Toyota, leaving Nissan a depleted company.

However, in 1945 and 1947 the production of trucks and cars were started respectively. By 1959, the Datsun 210 produced by Nissan was taking part in the Australian rally and in 1960 it got the Deming prize for engineering excellence. In the 60s, Nissan’s main competitor was Toyota and its cars were designed to directly compete with Toyota’s products. Nissan crafted this strategy as an aggressive marketing method to meet the opponent’s offensive moves.

In the 80s, most major car manufacturers had increased their manufacturing capacity and there was excess capacity in the industry.

Nissan’s domestic sales declined during the period and Nissan’s revenue statements started showing negative figures. The company commissioned a study to come up with survival mechanisms.

The plan gave two alternate methods of achieving the objectives. The first method was to implement a survival plan that included downsizing, reducing development cost, integrating platforms, streamlining sales, and divesting non-core business assets. The second alternative was to establish a global alliance to survive through increased sales.

Two possible partners emerged under the second strategy-Daimler Chrysler and Renault. Daimler-Chrysler who had been negotiating with Nissan to buy Nissan Diesel made an offer to acquire all of Nissan’s operations. For Nissan this was an offer that it could not resist. Given the size and prestige of Daimler-Chrysler, it could easily pay off all of Nissan’s debts and increase its sales. In short, it could remove all of Nissan’s problems. However, in agreeing to be acquired by Daimler-Chrysler, Nissan would lose its independence.

On the other hand the deal with Renault allowed Nissan to have an independent existence and still have access to processes to address its problems. On the basis of a research that it had commissioned, Nissan found that a joint venture with Renault had three main areas of benefit. The first benefit was that both companies had market strength in different areas of the world.

Second, Renault was good at producing small cars while Nissan was good at producing large cars. There was a possibility to integrate platforms and for cost reduction. Third, both companies had similar market capitalisation and thus the threat of takeover from either side was less, states www.soulcast.com.

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Chrysler joins Ford, endorses bill outlawing drivers from using hand-held cell …

Chrysler Group LLC today said it supports a bill that would ban motorists from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

According to a statement from the Auburn Hills automaker, it supports the Safe Drivers Act of 2011, legislation introduced by US Representative Carolyn McCarthy, and applauds the bills goal of prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving.

On Tuesday, Ford Motor Co. became the first automaker to endorse the proposed legislation.

General Motors Co. has not released any statement regarding the bill, which would be enforced nationwide.

In 2009, Chrysler says it became the first automaker to establish a corporate policy prohibiting texting while driving; and in 2003, it (then a part of Daimler Chrysler) becamethe first North American automaker to introduce Bluetooth technology in vehicles, enabling hands-free phone use..

Chrysler has a strong history of addressing distracted driving, and we are proactively designing our vehicles and educating our customers on the importance of staying focused on the road, reads the statement. This legislation addresses the fact that a drivers primary responsibility is to be in control of their vehicle; texting while driving clearly interferes with that responsibility.

Nine states and the District of Colombia have barred the use of hand-held cellphones by drivers, according to reports.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit group that works to improve traffic safety, reports electronic devices, such as cell phones, are associated with up to 25 percent of US car crashes

Michigan, along with 33 other states, DC and Guam have ban text messaging for all drivers, according to GHSA.

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Biannual Daimler Cup starts

SOCCER This years edition of the bi-annual Daimler Cup hosted by the Swaziland Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association (SOCGA) will start on Saturday.
The 10 day tournament, to be run by the National Football Association of Swaziland (NFAS) under the office of the Technical Director, will accommodate 500 youngsters in Under 15 and Under 13 teams. The first games will be played at the OlympAfrica Centre starting at 9am.
Making her remarks during the launch held at Sigwaca House yesterday, said the tournament would include both boys and girls teams from the different regional leagues.
I must however express disappointment on the shortage of girls teams. I sincerely hope that this is an issue that will be addressed in future. It is also worth mentioning that the tournament will break on June 19-20 to give way to the Olympic Day Run, she said.
Hofer said they would have trophies and medals for the winners of the tournament.
Unlike in previous years where we present already made soccer kits, the champions will get to design their own kit as part of the prize package, she said.
She said the funding by Daimler Chrysler would cover referees and officials allowances, transport for the teams as well as drinks and fruits for the players, she said.
Hofer further announced that the next edition of the Daimler Cup scheduled for June 2013 will change to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Cup.
We are hoping to incorporate more teams including the U-10 and U-8 when we start the IOC Cup, she said.
Meanwhile, NFAS Acting CEO Welile Mabuza said they were happy to be in partnership with SOCGA in running the tournament.
We really appreciate the Daimler Cup because it is the perfect tool for developing our football. We understand that developments starts at grass root level and we are hoping to achieve that goal through this tournament, he said.
Mabuza also encouraged the teams against cheating saying the tournament is not about winning but enhancing the skills of youngsters.
The objective behind the tournament is building football careers for our youngsters so that should be what drives the teams and nothing more, he said.
**
Zero tolerance on cheats
THE Swaziland Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association (SOCGA) has vowed to ban teams found with over aged players during the Daimler Cup tournament to start on Saturday.
This was said by the associations CEO Muriel Hofer during the launch of the tournament held at Sigwaca House yesterday.
We will not tolerate cheats during the tournament and will make sure that we register not only the teams but the coaches as well, to ensure that we identify them in case they decide to use other names in future tournaments, she said.

About the Daimler Cup
-500 players to participate in the tournament (boys and girls)
-Tournament will run from June 10-23 at OlympAfrica Centre
-Junior leagues playing in Zonal league, regional league and from Premier League teams are allowed to participate in the tournament.
-U-13 to play 2×20 minutes, U-15 to play 2×25 minutes

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BorgWarner Launches First Visctronic® Fan Drives for Class 8 Commercial Trucks …

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 17, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
A first for Class 8 commercial trucks in North America, BorgWarner Thermal Systems now supplies Visctronic fan drives as optional equipment for Freightliner Cascadia trucks powered by DD13 and DD15 engines. Engineered for optimal efficiency, BorgWarner’s electronically controlled Visctronic fan drives operate only when needed and at the appropriate speed, freeing up engine power and contributing to better fuel economy. Tighter control of engine temperature also extends engine and component life.

“To meet stringent emissions regulations, today’s heavy-duty commercial truck engines run at higher temperatures, making cooling systems a critical engine component. BorgWarner’s Visctronic fan drives respond directly to engine demands, delivering precise cooling to keep truck fleets running more efficiently,” said Daniel J. CasaSanta, President and General Manager, BorgWarner Thermal Systems. “With BorgWarner Kysor® on/off fan drives already standard equipment on these engines, we are pleased to expand our business with Freightliner by offering truck fleets the option to improve fuel economy and increase horsepower with BorgWarner Visctronic fan drives.”

Visctronic fan drives combine BorgWarner’s proven viscous technology with precise electronic control. Through specifically calibrated software, the fan drive communicates with the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU) to continuously determine the engine’s cooling needs. Patented fluid-actuated valves and high-speed reservoirs respond quickly for accurate control, delivering just the right amount of cooling when it’s needed. Because the fan drive responds directly to the engine’s cooling needs, average fan speed is lower. That means more available horsepower, better fuel economy, lower noise and improved driver comfort. Even at idle speed, the fan drive generates very low parasitic drag. As a self-contained unit, the fan drive requires no service or maintenance.

About BorgWarner Thermal Systems

BorgWarner Thermal Systems is a leading designer and supplier of components and systems for thermal management, designed to improve engine cooling, increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.

About BorgWarner

Auburn Hills, Michigan-based BorgWarner Inc.

/quotes/zigman/131196/quotes/nls/bwa BWA
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is a product leader in highly engineered components and systems for vehicle powertrain applications worldwide. The company operates manufacturing and technical facilities in 59 locations in 19 countries. Customers include VW/Audi, Ford, Toyota, Renault/Nissan, General Motors, Hyundai/Kia, Daimler, Chrysler, Fiat, BMW, Honda, John Deere, PSA, and MAN. The Internet address for BorgWarner is:
http://www.borgwarner.com .

BorgWarner’s Visctronic® fan drives are now available as an option on DD13 and DD15 engines for Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 commercial trucks, a first in the North American market.

SOURCE BorgWarner Inc.

Copyright (C) 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

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Bulgaria, Eurocopter Settle Troubled Deal at 3 ‘Panthers’ for Bulgarian Navy

Bulgarias government and Eurocopter have finally reached an agreement on the troubled deal for the purchase of 6 Panther helicopters for Bulgarian Navy, with Eurocopter agreeing to cut the deal in half.

After earlier on Tuesday, Bulgarias Defense Minister Anyu Angelov got his French counterpart Gerard Longuet to agree to releasing Bulgaria of half of the Panthers, later the same day Angelov and Olivier Michalon, Eurocopters Vice President of Sales for Europe and Central Asia, signed an agreement which meets the Bulgarian demands.

Thus, instead of 6 Panther helicopters, Bulgaria will get 3, and they will be supplied by the end of the year. What is more, the advance funds already transferred by the Bulgarian government to Societe Generale, the intermediary bank, for all six originally negotiated helicopters will be used to cover the cost of the three Panthers that Bulgaria will receive. The price will also cover maintenance costs and spare parts as well penalties.

According to the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, there are remaining issues of dispute between Eurocopter and the Bulgarian government but these will be settled with continuing talks in a spirit of understanding.

The Panther helicopters will be unique for the Bulgarian Navy, which currently has no similar aircraft. They can be used for reconaissance and control of aquatory, rescues, evacuation, fighting piracy, illegal trafficiking, humanitarian operations.

The Panthers will be stationed in the Chaika air base near Varna; they are expected in September, October, and November 2011.

According to Angelov, his team managed to defend Bulgarias interests – ie to negotiate a downsizing of the arms deal – in hard talks that took seven months.

Last week, Bulgarias Cabinet authorized Defense Minister Anyu Angelov to conduct talks with helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter in order to shake off the purchase of 3 out of 6 Panther helicopters for the Bulgarian Navy.

This decision is the latest in a series of attempts on part of Bulgarias center-right Borisov Cabinet to renegotiate a number of major arms purchase deals made by previous governments under loose contracts and in a time when the Bulgarian budget enjoyed a big surplus.

Bulgarias Defense Ministry has already managed to renegotiate, ie cancel or downsize arms deals with Daimler-Chrysler and Alenia Aeronautica.

According to Wednesdays decision of the Bulgarian government, the rationale for asking Eurocopter to cut in half the helicopter order is the lack of money of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry.

Once it gets Eurocopter to agree to downsizing the Panther deal, the Bulgarian government hopes to receive the three Panthers for the Bulgarian Navy by the end of 2011.

Minister Angelov has previously described the talks with Eurocopter as extremely difficult because they have to be conducted not directly with the supplier but through a bank, which is an intermediary.

The contract with Eurocopter was singed by former Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov in January 2005. Under it, Bulgaria was supposed to receive 12 Cougar helicopters for the Bulgarian Air Force, and 6 Panther helicopters for the Bulgarian Navy at the price of EUR 358 M.

By August 2010, Bulgaria had received 11 Cougar, and had paid 60% of the entire deal – about EUR 240 M – which is the guarantee deposit.

Under the contract, if the Bulgarian state fails to pay the entire due sum, the bank servicing the deal can withdraw 60% of the value of each of the helicopters whose delivery has not been paid for from the EUR 240 M deposit made by the Bulgarian government.

Subsequently, the Bulgarian government decided to pay all the money for the Cougars and to ask Eurocopter to renegotiate the deal in order to give up buying the three Panthers but this decision was not formalized until Wednesday, June 15, 2011.

In December 2010, the 12th Cougar helicopter arrived from France, and was received at the Krumovo base of the Bulgarian Air Force. According to a statement of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, the 12 Cougars for the Air Force are to be used for combat searches and rescue operations.

In August 2010, Bulgarias government allocated BGN 256 M from the countrys fiscal reserve in order to complete several arms deals with foreign companies widely seen as problematic, including the deal with Eurocopter.

At present, the Bulgarian Air Force cannot even use the helicopters already delivered to them because under the terms of the deal they are not entitled to do that until the accounts have been fully settled.

Back in December 2010, Angelov indicated that Eurocopter had very little desire to renounce the penalties worth EUR 12 M that Bulgaria has to pay for delaying its scheduled payments.

The Bulgarian government has been holding meetings with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS), which is Eurocopters parent company, in an attempt to reach a settlement sooner.

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Beware the winner’s curse

The one with more firepower will control RHB Cap

IF top bankers Datuk Seri Nazir Razak and Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar had their way, theyd like you to believe that walking away from the takeover contest for RHB Capital Bhd, which is promising to get rough, is as easy as, well, a cakewalk. But were not that gullible and surely, it cant possibly be.

Public display of gallantry aside, who can resist the heightened desirability of a bride that is being courted by a rival in the race for scale?

This weekend, both Malayan Banking Bhds Wahid and CIMB Group Holdings Bhds Nazir, with their coterie of highly-paid and skilled advisers and lawyers will huddle together in their respective corporate suites, to ponder and pore over a single question how badly do they want RHB Capital Bhd? Indeed, it was a question both were lulled into believing they had already answered even as they were putting the finishing touches to their bids. But not anymore.

The sale of a 25% stake in RHB Cap by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bhd (ADCB) to sibling Aabar Investments PJSC (both are sovereign-controlled) signed and proclaimed late Friday with the pomp and presence of the respective countrys top officials, is set to test just how much Maybank and CIMB really want (or need) the countrys fifth largest bank.

Like it or not, the transaction sealed at 2.25 times the book value of RHB Cap or RM10.80 per share sets an indicative price for the banking giants takeover attempt of RHB Cap, a price tag thats higher than what they may have originally planned to plonk on the table. Based on analysts take, it may even border on pricey. Hong Leong Bank Bhd recently completed its takeover of EON Capital Bhd at 1.4 times book. If you say thats a different and smaller entity, then chew on this the industrys historical average banking merger acquisitions stands at 1.8 times price to book.

But there are precedents that dont swing too far off the mark. In 2008, ADCB acquired the block from EPF in RHB Cap at 2.2x book. In 2006, CIMB wrested control of Southern Bank Bhd at 2.2x book. In 2007, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi scooped up a 4.5% stake in Bumiputra Commerce Holdings Bhd at 3.1x book.

That throws up the over RM20bil question would Maybank or CIMB pay top dollar for an entity that they dwarf several times over in terms of financial profile and domestic franchise?

Now answer this would you construe the recent left-to-right hand asset sale between ADCB and Aabar an arms-length transaction? Probably not (unless one is a maestro at the agility-challenged Twister game!) (An arms-length deal involves independent parties attempting to get the best deal possible in their own self interest).

On two counts, the cap may not fit. First, ADCB and Aabar are owned by the Abu Dhabi government. Second, ADCB was divesting its stake in RHB Cap as it potentially faces capital adequacy issues in light of the onerous Basel III global banking rules. So, one could construe that if the transaction involved an arbitrary third party, it could have been conducted differently.

That being the case, should the price of this transaction be deemed an indicative price for Maybank and CIMBs takeover of RHB Cap? No doubt, the stakeholders of RHB Cap including the EPF would like to think so. But is that wishful thinking?

On a stand alone basis, there could be much to be excited over Aabars entry into RHB Cap. The fund, together with its owner the International Petroleum Investment Co, owns assets in excess of US$100bil. It is also the largest shareholder in Daimler Chrysler and was also one of the largest cornerstone investors recently in the worlds largest Initial Public Offering of Glencore. But that becomes less excitable when taken in the context of the potential merger as Aabars interest could dilute to some 5% post merger in the enlarged entity.

The onus of deciding whats a fair price for RHB Cap ultimately rests squarely on the boards of RHB Cap, Maybank and CIMB. As major shareholders, both EPF and Aabar have a crucial hand to play in closing the deal. Herein lies the crux Aabar is very unlikely to accept a deal, cash or shares, which effectively values its newly-acquired stake in RHB Cap at a lower price. Conversely, if the suitors walk, RHB Caps share price which has been puffed up on the back of the takeover bids, could lose much ground. (It closed the week at RM9.75). That may be a tad hard to swallow for a deal that had only just received the tacit approval of officialdom.

Bank Negara had little room to rule on ADCBs sale to Aabar. In any case, there was no good reason to rule against that. But when it comes to Maybank and CIMBs battle for RHB Cap, its power to steer and influence the direction of the countrys largest consolidation exercise, free market notwithstanding, is indisputable.

The one with more firepower to bid higher will likely win this seemingly to-death battle to become the largest bank in the region. But beware the winners curse.

#9679; Senior business editor Anita Gabriel loves a good old fashioned fight. Her favourite undisputed boxing champion is Evander Holyfield because he rarely played dirty.

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Mozambique: Guebuza Visits Jatropha Processing Plant

Maputo Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Saturday visited a small jatropha processing plant in Bilibiza, in Quissanga district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

The oil from the seeds of the jatropha shrub can be transformed into high quality bio-diesel, and certain vehicle manufacturers such as Daimler-Chrysler, have been experimenting with biodiesel from jatropha as an alternative to fossil fuels. Jatropha also has the great advantage that it does not necessarily compete with food crops, since it can be grown on marginal land.

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Opel Soap, Day 2.5: China’s BAIC Wants Opel, Again

China’s BAIC, the car company that is for all intents and purposes owned by the city of Beijing, is after Opel. That’s what Germany’s Welt, a paper usually well connected with the current German government, heard “from sources inside the company.”

BAIC is an old fan of Made-in-Germany. BAIC had the Chrysler joint venture, and met Mercedes during the Daimler-Chrysler era. Chrysler left, BAIC kept Benz and happily builds E-Class and C-Class Mercedes in Beijing. They also build Hyundais.

When Opel was up for sale in 2009, BAIC put in a bid. It was the best looking of all. They offered to close only Antwerp, to not touch the other plants in Europe, and to open the huge Chinese market for Opel. However, they were not taken seriously. Also, the German government already had its darling: Magna. Then, GM pulled out and kept Opel. BAIC got a piece of Opel nonetheless: They bought the Saab tooling, and from what I’m hearing, they like it.

Now, BAIC is at it again, and is bidding for a prettier Opel. Antwerp is closed. Bochum is dropping a few battalions of workers with golden parachutes. No government support would be needed, at least not from the German government.

Die Welt heard of a rift in the board on GM. The “hawks” want to get rid of Opel, pretty much abandon Old Europe and focus instead on Asia and Russia (where Chevrolet is being pushed). The “doves” want to remain a global player.

A “former GM manager” told Die Welt that GM might keep the tech center in Rüsselsheim. It is owned by GM anyway.

In China, advisers close to BAIC told Reuters that no formal offer had been made. BAIC President Wang Dazong, an engineer who spent 20 years working at GM, has said the company is aiming to expand outside its Chinese home market.

Possible problems: Patents. Where there is a will, there is a way, as Ford/Geely/Volvo shows. Also, GM China might not be too happy about a stronger BAIC. But the Chinese market is big and has room for many.

BAIC is also rumored to be meddling with any Saab sales to parties that arent on BAICs birthday list.

Die Welt expects a decision as early as the next meeting of the GM board.

The German government (and this is where most likely the leak is) could do very little to stop that sale if  Detroit and Beijing agree. However, German car companies would be highly alarmed, because the Chinese would gain a foothold right in the middle of Europe with a brand that would be much more suited to a low cost high volume producer than Volvo.

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