Finnair’s sale of catering business to LSG Sky Chefs collapses

The board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG (ETR:LHA) has rejected a plan for its in-flight foodservices unit, LSG Sky Chefs, to acquire the  Finnish airline Finnair’s (HEL:FIA1S) catering business.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the deal on 12 March, but due to an investment freeze at Lufthansa, the German airline’s board decided not to give the green-light to the acquisition.

Anssi Komulainen, senior vice president of customer service at Finnair, said the decision to drop the deal was a disappointment for both parties, adding that Finnair will now focus on increasing productivity at the catering business with the view of boosting profits and improving customer service.

Other alternatives for the business will also be considered, Komulainen said.

Under the MoU, LSG Sky Chefs was to buy Finnair Catering Ltd and Finncatering Ltd combining 650 employees. The move was expected to widen LSG Sky Chefs’ operations to the strategically important Finnish market, the potential buyer said in March.

Subject to Lufthansa’s board approval and regulatory clearance, the transaction was expected to be completed in the first half of this year.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Finnair, a client of LSG Sky Chef, will continue this relationship with the German firm, it said, adding that the development announced today would not affect its programme to cut annual costs by €140m ($173.5m) by 2014.

Its catering business generated net sales of around €80m last year.

Apple buys Italian start-up Redmatica – reports

Italian blog Fanpage, has reported that US tech giant Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) has reportedly acquired Italian start-up Redmatica.

Fanpage has also obtained a document by Italy’s Communications Regulatory Authority, or AGCOM, which may offer a solid proof for the deal.

The small Italian company is focused on creating software applications for music editing. According to the local blog, the firm generates yearly revenues of less than €100,000 ($123,750) and a profit of some €26,000. The company’s Keymap Pro software is a sampled instruments editor. It markets three more products, all of which are intended to be run on Apple’s personal computer Mac.

According to another publication, Techcrunch, through the deal, the US major may be looking to bolster its staff or combine some of the acquired software into its offerings.

Apple was formed in 1976 and currently markets consumer electronics, computer software and personal computers. The company’s products include the Macintosh line of computers as well as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Apple also develops software, including the Mac OS X operating system, the iTunes media browser, a multimedia suite called iLife and a productivity software, iWork. The company’s offering further includes the photography-focused software Aperture, its audio and film software Final Cut Studio and its Safari web browser, among others.

National Oilwell Varco agrees buy CE Franklin for $240m

National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NYSE:NOV), an American oilfield equipment and services provider, will acquire CE Franklin Ltd (TSE:CFT), a Canadian oil & gas equipment distributor, for CAD12.75 a share, or CAD240m in total, CE Franklin confirmed.

The buyer will add CE Franklin to its Canadian distribution business, widening its product offering and customer base in the growing Canadian market, chairman and president, Pete Miller, said.

CE Franklin’s president and CEO, Michael West, said in his comment that apart from providing significant value to shareholders, the deal ensures for his company the chance to become part of a global sector leader and boost client service, while increasing opportunities for employees.

The offered price, a premium of 36% to CE Franklin’s closing on 30 May, was considered fair by the target’s board and its financial advisor CIBC World Markets Inc, which recommended shareholders to accept it.

Schlumberger Ltd (NYSE:SLB), CE Franklin’s largest shareholder, together with the company’s directors and executive officers pledged to vote their combined 57% of the company shares in favour of the transaction.

The US buyer needs to secure at least 66% of the votes at a special meeting of CE Franklin shareholders to be held in mid-July, as well as regulatory approvals.

Completion is seen to occur shortly after the shareholders meeting.

CE Franklin, through 39 branches in western Canada, distributes pipe, valves, flanges, fittings, production equipment, tubular products and other general oilfield supplies to local oil and gas producers, as well as to the oil sands, refining, heavy oil, petrochemical, forestry and mining sectors.

GuestLogix Inc to deploy technology with Jet Airways in India

Global provider of onboard retail and payment technology solutions to airlines and the passenger travel industry, GuestLogix Inc (TSX:GXI) announced on Tuesday that it will deploy its onboard retailing technology and point-of-sale (POS) handheld devices to power Jet Airways’ in-flight duty free programme, JetBoutique.

Global provider of onboard retail and payment technology solutions to airlines and the passenger travel industry, GuestLogix Inc (TSX:GXI) announced on Tuesday that it will deploy its onboard retailing technology and point-of-sale (POS) handheld devices to power Jet Airways’ in-flight duty free programme, JetBoutique.

The technology and POS handheld devices are being deployed in conjunction with Inflight Sales Group (ISG), a pioneer of airline concession operations.

Implementation by Indian carrier Jet Airways is said to represent more than 14 million annual passenger trips for GuestLogix. The Indian carrier is expected to use the integrated solution to manage cash and credit card payments of duty free items onboard.

Currently Jet Airways operates a fleet of 102 aircraft, which includes 10 Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, 12 Airbus A330-200 aircraft, 60 next generation Boeing 737-700/800/900 aircraft and 20 modern ATR 72-500 turboprop aircraft.

GuestLogix Inc aims to help carriers and other travel operators create, manage, and control onboard retail environments tailored to their needs and their passengers.

Colfax acquires 91% stake in Soldex

Colfax Corp (NYSE:CFX), US fluid handling products supplier, announced on Tuesday it had bought a 91% stake in Peru-based welding equipment manufacturer Soldex SA, valuing the business at $235m (€187m), including assumed debt.

The interest was purchased from local securities and real estate investment company Inversiones Breca SA and affiliates.

The deal is expected to foster Colfax’s standing in South America given the target company’s strong position along the Pacific coast, the buyer said.

The acquisition is also seen to give Colfax’s ESAB division, which focuses on production of equipment and filler metals for all types of welding and cutting applications, a top position on the continent and to further facilitate the company’s access to the energy and natural resources sectors.

The move fits into Colfax’s strategy to expand its operations in emerging markets and in sectors with the potential to grow in the long term, CEO Steve Simms said.

Colfax, headquartered in Fulton, Maryland, manufactures and sells gas-and fluid-handling and fabrication technology products and services to commercial and governmental clients worldwide. In January, the company wrapped up the acquisition of UK engineering company Charter International (LON:CHTR), paying £1.53bn ($2.4bn/€1.9bn).

Sentica Partners to acquire 50% stake in Finnish Silta from Logica

Finnish buyout firm Sentica Partners Oy has agreed a deal to buy a 50% interest in Finnish payroll outsourcing business and financial management specialist Silta Oy from Logica plc (LON:LOG).  Logica, a UK business and technology service company, announced the deal on Tuesday.

The deal has to be given the green-light by the competition authorities. Through it, Logica wants to concentrate on its core competencies of IT and business services around human resources (HR) business process outsourcing (BPO).

The value of Silta’s gross assets is £1.1m ($1.7m/€1.4m). The firm is a venture between Logica and Finnish insurers Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Co and Sampo Oyj.

Logica, with a staff of 41,000, offers business consulting, systems integration and outsourcing to large European businesses and other customers worldwide.

Yesterday, the company announced it had entered into a letter of intent with a unit of Finnish insurer Tapiola Group to create a new firm to deliver information and communication technology (ICT) services relating to the local banking and insurance operations of Tapiola. The parties will discuss forming this entity on 1 June as they want to establish it by October 2012.

Earlier in May, Logica reiterated its previous full year revenue forecast, saying it expects revenue to drop by 2% in the worst and rise by 2% in the best case.

Winding Up Pension Schemes & The PPF

It used to be when employers went bust and workers lost their jobs, pension pots, too, likely disappeared into the wide blue yonder, often leaving many with a lifetime of hardship and worry as a consequence. Consequently, institutions such as the Pension Protection Fund were set up to protects the rights of current and former employees.

The Pension Protection Fund, or PPF as it is more commonly known, a public corporation set up by the Pensions Act 2004 and answerable to Parliament, literally protects the pensions of millions of people belonging to defined benefit schemes, such as final salary pension schemes. The PPF also operates a fraud compensation fund, compensating members of all types of pension schemes who have suffered through the dishonesty of employers.

Eligible pension schemes pay levies to the PPF which also generates further income through its investments and by taking over the assets of schemes which transfer to the fund. Some older defined benefit pension schemes fall outside the remit of the PPF. Instead, such pension scheme members are helped through the government-funded Financial Assistance Scheme, or FAS. The PPF also manages FAS on behalf of the government.

The PPF’s website provides a snapshot of the state of the UK economy, listing the latest pensions schemes which have transferred over to the fund. In total, more than 430 schemes have transferred to date with compensation paid out amounting to a staggering £460 million. The average yearly payment paid out per person stands at just over £4,000.

According to figures released for March 2012, pension scheme members seeking compensation included more than 10,000 former Woolworths employees, some 2,200 workers of automotive parts supplier Wagon plc, and 2,064 employees of Salisbury-based Hiflex Fluidtechnik Limited.

All pension schemes go through a rather lengthy and convoluted assessment period prior to entering the PPF, the process being triggered initially by an “insolvency event” – in other words, the company sponsoring the pension scheme has gone into administration. TThe administrators will notify the PPF of the situation by sending them a Section 120 Notice, so they can undergo PPF assessment.

The PPF and the pension scheme’s trustees will now gather the necessary information to determine if the scheme is eligible for PPF protection or not. If it is then the Section 120 will be validated and the assessment period deemed to have begun from the date of the insolvency event.

During this time trustees will need to keep pension scheme members fully informed as to what is going and to keep paying out pensions at PPF levels of compensation throughout the assessment period. A Section 143 valuation by an actuary completes the assessment process confirming whether or not the scheme has sufficient assets and can therefore pay benefits of at least PPF levels into the future. If it can’t then the pension scheme transfers to the PPF.

Members of the pension scheme already in receipt of benefits will likely see very little difference at this stage because they’ll be receiving benefits at PPF levels of compensation. The PPF can also pull out of the process if the employer has been rescued as a going concern, for example, or the business has been sold and some other body takes over responsibility for the pension scheme.

Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign for independence is launched

A campaign in favour of Scottish independence is being launched in Edinburgh today.

There are plans for a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom, although a date for the vote has not yet been agreed and it is not likely to be held until 2014.

The pro-independence campaign is led by Yes Scotland, which includes the Scottish National Party (SNP) as well as other political parties, celebrities and businesses. Some concerns have been raised that campaigning is starting too early, with the pro-union campaign not expected to launch until later this year.

Yes Scotland claims that it is planning the biggest community-based campaign in Scotland’s history, hoping to build support for an independent Scotland by arguing that independence will give Scots power over their economy and political life. Their slogan for the referendum has been revealed as “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.

A YouGov poll commissioned former chancellor Alistair Darling, a Scottish Labour MP, suggests that the Yes campaign may have its work cut out as only one in three of the 1,000 voters surveyed agreed that Scotland should become independent, while 57% were opposed and 10% were undecided. Of those who voted for the SNP at the last election, 58% intend to vote for independence in the referendum and more than a quarter, 28%, say they will vote against.

Voters are sceptical about the economic benefits of independence, with almost half (47%) believing that an independent Scotland would be financially worse off, against 27% who think the country would be better off.

Alistair Darling said that the poll shows that Alex Salmond, the First Minister and Scottish National Party leader, does not speak for Scotland on the issue and in fact independence “is as unpopular as it ever has been”.

Kinder Morgan and El Paso complete $21bn merger

US natural gas pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI) said it had finalised its planned USD21bn (EUR16.7bn) combination with peer El Paso Corp (NYSE:EP) announced last October.

The transaction, effective as of 25 May, converts Kinder Morgan into the largest midstream company and the fourth largest energy company in North America, based on enterprise value.

Its new position as the US’ largest transporter and storage operator of natural gas, ensures many growth opportunities for Kinder Morgan in the US, which it plans to pursue as means to create value for shareholders and to benefit employees and customers, chairman and CEO, Richard D. Kinder, said.

As part of the merger, El Paso agreed in February to sell its exploration and production business EP Energy to a group led by private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE:APO) in a deal worth some USD7.15bn, which has also been completed, the companies said.

In order to secure regulatory clearance for the tie-up, Kinder Morgan had agreed to sell some of its own assets, which it plans to do in the third quarter this year. The Federal Trade Commission gave it six months from the date of its ruling on 1 May to complete the divestment.

The acquisition of El Paso was financed with cash and stock.
Kinder Morgan said the combination will be accretive to its results. It will generate annual cost savings of over USD400m, above Kinder Morgan’s initial projection of around USD350m, the buyer added.

General Mills acquires Brazilian food company Yoki

US food company General Mills Inc (NYSE:GIS) said on Thursday it had agreed to purchase family-owned Brazilian sector firm Yoki Alimentos SA to expand its business in the South American country.

The takeover will provide the US company with the capabilities and geographic scale needed to step up its growth in the attractive Brazilian consumer market, General Mill’s executive vice president and COO Chris O’Leary commented.

The buyer intends to concentrate on building the Yoki and Kitano-branded product portfolio, growing its existing operations in Brazil and introducing more brands over time, he added.

The deal is conditional and is seen to be completed during the first quarter of General Mills’ fiscal 2013, which starts on 28 May 2012. Its financial terms were not disclosed. The purchaser estimates that the transaction will more than double its annual sales in Latin America to about USD1bn (EUR795m).

Yoki was founded in 1960 and currently markets over 600 items under nine brands throughout the country. The food products that trade under its Yoki and Kitano brands maintain leading market positions in categories like snacks, convenient meals, basic foods and seasonings.

The firm has multiple production facilities and a national retail distribution network with a a headcount of over 5,000. last year, it generated sales of BRL1.1bn (USD536.9m/EUR426.9m) on an IFRS basis.