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$AMZN to Buy Ivona Software

“Amazon.com (AMZN), in a possible move tied to its expected introduction of a smartphone later this year, said Thursday that it’s acquired Ivona Software, a maker of text-to-speech technology.

Gdynia, Poland-based Ivona already powers the “Text-to-Speech,” “Voice Guide” and “Explore By Touch” features on Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. It also provides text-to-speech products to thousands of developers, businesses and customers worldwide.

Amazon didn’t disclose terms or other details. Ivona’s website already carried the tag “An Amazon Company” early Thursday….”

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$CSCO To Buy Intucell for $475 Million


“Bessemer Venture Partners racked up a huge win today. Two years ago it invested $6 million in exchange for nearly half the equity of Israeli startup Intucell, whose networking tech lets carriers handle more mobile traffic. Today, Cisco announced plans to buy Intucell for $475 million in cash, and BVP tells me it will take nearly half that sale price.

Funding Intucell’s entire $6 million Series A round was a risky bet for Bessemer. At the time, the startup had just six employees and no customers. But together, two of Bessemer’s partners realized there was something special about Intucell and its self-organizing network (SON) software.


Intucell’s technology helps mobile carriers dynamically adjust their cellular grid to maximize mobile traffic speeds and minimize dropped calls. Without SON software, a carrier’s service slows down and becomes less stable under heavy load or when users travel to the edge of a geographic block of the static grid. Any optimization had to happen manually, which was inefficient and inadequate.

Intucell’s SON uses big data to assess the state of a network and lets a carrier’s towers communicate with each other. That way they can expand or contract their cells in real-time so customers on the fringes of a block get picked up by neighboring towers, and users in the center of that block get much better reception….”

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Mr. Softy Reported to Be Interested in a $3B Investment in $DELL

“The Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) buyout keeps getting more interesting. It keeps getting more convoluted as well. We have reported on the possible Dell leveraged buyout from founder and CEO Michael Dell, along with private equity group Silver Lake Partners, with mixed fanfare. Now CNBC’s David Faber has commented that he has learned that Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is interested in investing up to $3 billion for a preferred equity stake in Dell as part of the merger. 24/7 Wall St. wants to warn investors that this may not change the possible buyout premium much at all…”

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$T to Buy $ATN Customer Base for $780 Million

AT&T Inc. (T), the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, agreed to buy spectrum and subscribers from Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. (ATNI) for $780 million in cash, bolstering the company’s network and bringing in 585,000 new customers.

The deal includes the purchase of licenses, network assets and retail stores, Dallas-based AT&T said today in a statement. The spectrum is in the 700-, 850- and 1900-megahertz bands, making it complementary to AT&T’s network, the company said. Atlantic Tele-Network operates under the Alltel brand in six states, mostly in the South and Midwest.

AT&T, led by Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, has been snapping up airwaves in a bid to catch up with Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 U.S. carrier. Verizon won approval last year to buy airwave rights from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and other cable customers for about $3.6 billion. Wireless carriers rely on spectrum to transmit phone calls and data to mobile devices.

Demand for spectrum has increased consolidation in the wireless business and buoyed the values of companies that own a desirable collection of airwaves. With today’s deal, AT&T is acquiring operations that ATNI bought from Verizon in 2010 for $223 million. That means the business has more than tripled in value, despite losing more than 200,000 subscribers, saidChris King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore.

“Clearly the deal is a hugely successful investment for ATNI,” King said in a note to investors.

AT&T shares were little changed in New York today, trading at $33.45 at 10:03 a.m. in New York. The stock climbed 11 percent last year. ATNI, based in Beverly, Massachusetts, jumped 17 percent to $45.99….”

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$RIO Mulls a Sale of Mozambique Coal Unit

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second- biggest mining company, is considering a sale of all or part of its coal business in Mozambique after last week flagging a $3 billion writedown for the assets, a person familiar with the matter said.

The London-based company has begun a review of the assets acquired in 2011 for A$3.9 billion ($4.1 billion) with the purchase of Riversdale Mining Ltd. and all options are being examined, the person said, declining to be identified because the information is private. The person said no timetable has been set for the completion of the review.

The Australian Financial Review reported today that Rio was conducting a review of its Mozambique coal business, to examine export transport options, potential joint ventures or asset sales, citing unnamed sources.

Chief Executive Officer Tom Albanese and head of strategy Doug Ritchie, who led the acquisition of Riversdale, stepped down last week after Rio (RIO) said it would book charges totaling $14 billion. The company said the Mozambique asset writedown was unacceptable, citing transport constraints and a cut to recoverable coking coal estimates.

Rio will also assess options of boosting coal exports by co-operating with potential parties on rail and port infrastructure, the person said. Other companies with coal mines near Rio’s in the Moatize Basin include Vale SA (VALE3) and Anglo American Plc. (AAL)…”

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$MU Moves One Step Closer to Acquiring Elpida Memory

“Elpida Memory Inc won court approval for technology deals over the objections of U.S. bondholders, who argued the agreements were an attempt to bind the bankrupt chipmaker to a proposed $2.5 billion sale to Micron Technology Inc. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Delaware found no evidence of collusion or improper motives Thursday in Elpida’s technology licensing deals with Micron and a $15 million patent sale to Rambus Inc.U.S. bondholders opposed the deals because they said they would effectively tie Elpida to its proposed sale and were unfairly beneficial to Micron.”The bondholders do not cite any facts to contest the proof that these agreements confer substantial benefits on Elpida’s estate,” Judge Christopher Sontchi said in his 43-page opinion.Elpida said it would be able to immediately begin improving its operations thanks to the licensing agreements with Micron. Elpida’s lawyers have described the objections to the technology agreements as attacks on the Micron deal itself….”

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Banks Line Up Funding for $DELL to go Private

“Talks to take Dell private are at an advanced stage with at least four major banks lined up to provide financing, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, propelling shares of the No. 3 computer maker 7 percent higher.

Buyout firm Silver Lake Partners, which is leading the deal, tapped Credit Suisse,Bank of America Merrill LynchBarclaysand RBC late last year to finance a potential deal, the sources said on condition of anonymity, because details have not been made public.

JPMorgan is advising Dell on a potential buyout of the $19 billion company, which would be one of the largest deals since the global recession. It will also allow Dell, which has been trying to become a one-stop shop for corporate technology needs as the PC market shrinks, to conduct that difficult makeover away from public scrutiny….”

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$COP To Sell Some Properties to $DNR for $1.05 Billion

“ConocoPhillips (COP) agreed to sell its properties in the Cedar Creek Anticline to Denbury Resources Inc. (DNR) for $1.05 billion as the Houston company aims to focus on its unconventional Bakken position.

“This disposition represents further optimization of our portfolio,” said Don Wallette, Conoco’s executive vice president of commercial, business development and corporate planning. “The transaction will allow us to focus our investments in North Dakota and Montana on our significant Bakken unconventional position.”

The properties consist of about 86,000 net acres in southwestern North Dakota and eastern Montana. ConocoPhillips said its 2012 net production from these properties averaged 13,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day through November. The sale doesn’t include any of ConocoPhillips’ assets in the Bakken Formation, where it owns 626,000 net acres.

Conoco expects the sale to add $120 million to its fourth quarter earnings….”

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Dell Is In Talks To Go Private

“Dell is in talks with several private equity firms to go private, according to Bloomberg News.

The stock is up 14% on the news.

Bloomberg tweets: “several large banks have already been contacted about financing an offer.”

Dell had an awful Q3, when it missed analysts’ expectations of $13.9 billion in revenues and $0.40 in earnings per share. The actual numbers: $13.7 billion in revenue and $0.39 in EPS.

Dell is suffering from a decline in consumer interest in PCs.

PC sales were down almost 5% during the holidays, according to Gartner….”

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$GE Increases Funding Ability With the Purchase of $MET’s Deposit Unit


“(Reuters) – MetLife Inc said on Monday it had closed the sale of its deposit business to General Electric Co , a move that allows the U.S. insurer to drop its registration as a bank holding companyand provides GE Capital with an alternative source of funding for its lending business.

The deal, for $6.4 billion in bank deposits, had been in the works for more than a year with regulatory review the main reason for the delay.

The two companies in September tweaked the deal structure to make it subject to the approval of theOffice of the Comptroller of the Currency, rather than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, and won approval in mid-December.

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE reached the deal to buy the deposit-taking unit in December 2011, with an eye toward making its GE Capital finance unit less dependent on borrowing.

New York-based MetLife said the deal reflected its desire to focus on its insurance and employee benefit operations.”

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$UPS Drops its $7 Billion Bid for TNT Express

“Antitrust concerns will force UPS to scrap its acquisition of Dutch TNT Express. UPS expects the European Commission will not allow the proposed $7 billion deal to happen, despite negotiations over restructuring the merged businesses.

“We are extremely disappointed with the European Commission’s position. We proposed significant and tangible remedies designed to address the EC’s concerns with the transaction,” says UPS CEO Scott Davis….”

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$UHR to Buy Jewelry Brand From $HWD for $1 Billion

Swatch Group AG (UHR), the biggest maker of Swiss timepieces, agreed to buy the Harry Winston watch and jewelry unit for about $1 billion, adding a luxury label in its biggest acquisition.

Swatch Group will pay Harry Winston Diamond Corp. (HWD)$750 million and assume as much as $250 million in debt, the Biel- based company said in a statement today. Harry Winston Diamond, whose name was mentioned by Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” said it will now be known as Dominion Diamond Corp. and focus on its diamond-mining operations.

The acquisition will help Swatch compete against Cie. Financiere Richemont SA’s Cartier brand in the market for high- end jewelry and watches decorated with precious stones. Swatch, the biggest purchaser of polished diamonds, had a gap in its portfolio after a collaboration with Tiffany & Co. (TIF)dissolved into a legal dispute in 2011, according to Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich.

“Swatch was always missing a jewelry-watch brand and Harry Winston definitely fits into that category,” he said. “After the Tiffany disaster, they now have another brand to expand.”

The stock rose as much as 4.8 percent to a record 516 Swiss francs. They were 3.3 percent higher at 508.5 francs at 12:27 p.m. in Zurich….”

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$NWSA to Increase Stake in $SKYD

Sky Deutschland AG (SKYD) agreed on a $1 billion financing deal with shareholder News Corp. (NWSA) and a group of lenders that allows Rupert Murdoch’s company to increase its stake in the German pay-television unit to 54.5 percent.

Sky will sell 77.9 million new shares at 4.46 euros each to News Adelaide, a unit owned by New York-based News Corp., to raise 347.4 million euros ($465 million), Munich-based Sky said today. Sky Deutschland also agreed with banks led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) over 300 million-euro five-year credit facilities that are guaranteed by News Corp. Sky rose 4.3 percent to 4.80 euros at 9:24 a.m. in Frankfurt.

Sky’s stock was the best performer in the 27-company Bloomberg Europe 500 Media Index last year, having almost tripled. Chief Executive Officer Brian Sullivan is counting on higher-paying subscribers to help Sky reach its target for an operating profit in 2013, which would be the first since News Corp. began investing in the company about five years ago.

“The market had long anticipated the second leg of equity financing,” Conor O’Shea, a media analyst with Kepler Capital Markets in Paris, wrote in a note today. Speculation around a full News Corp. takeover will increase once the rights issue is complete, O’Shea said….”

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$BLK To Buy $17.6B ETF Division From Credit Suisse

BlackRock Inc. (BLK), the world’s largest asset manager, agreed to buy an exchange-traded funds unit from Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) to boost its presence in Switzerland.

The purchase of a business with $17.6 billion of client assets under management is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, the New York-based firm said today. BlackRock didn’t disclose the price of the Credit Suisse unit, which has 58 ETFs, including $8.7 billion in nine funds domiciled in Switzerland and others in Ireland and Luxembourg.

The acquisition of Europe’s fifth-biggest exchange-traded products business will consolidate the top ranking of BlackRock’s iShares unit, which has a 38 percent market share in the region, according to figures published last month by the New York-based firm. Chief Executive Officer Laurence D. Fink said last year BlackRock would address the strategy of its iShares unit, which has about $760 billion in ETPs, after losing market share in the U.S. to Vanguard Group Inc…”

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Dish May Have Set Off a Bidding War for Clearwire as They Top Sprint’s Bid of $2.3B

“(Reuters) – Dish Network put in a bid for Clearwire Corp on Tuesday that trumped Sprint Nextel’s $2.2 billion offer, setting the stage for a takeover battle for the wireless service provider that owns crucial mobile spectrum.

Dish’s $2.28 billion offer appeared to affirm the satellite television provider’s ambitious plan to buy its way into the wireless services industry, on which it has already spent $3 billion acquiring much-needed capacity.

Dish’s straight-talking chairman Charlie Ergen says he wants to enter the mobile broadband market, and one way of doing it is to partner with another operator. But some analysts have speculated that Ergen is amassing spectrum — an increasingly valuable commodity as use of media-consuming mobile devices such as tablets intensifies — to flip it for a handsome profit.

The success of his latest move hinges on a number of conditions, not least of which is approval by wireless carrier Sprint, the No.3 U.S. carrier that owns just over 50 percent of Clearwire and is also keen to buy up the rest of the company….”

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$VOD Up on News That $VZ May Make a Purchase

“Shares in Vodafone rose almost 3 percent on Tuesday after its partner in U.S. joint venture Verizon Wireless said it would be “feasible” to buy out the British group in what would be one of the biggest corporate deals ever.

Verizon Communications Chief Executive Lowell McAdam told The Wall Street Journalthat “we have always said we would love to own all of that asset”, which is 55 percent owned by Verizon Communications and 45 percent by Vodafone.

Investors in both groups have long speculated about the future of Verizon Wireless’s ownership, especially after Vodafone embarked on a programming of selling stakes in businesses around the world that it did not control.

That was aimed at streamlining its portfolio and returning cash to shareholders who felt the company’s share price did not reflect the sum of its many individual parts.

The two parent groups have also clashed in recent years over when and whether Verizon Wireless should pay its two owners a dividend and the comments from McAdam are likely to reignite the issue.

“I think 1/8a deal 3/8 is feasible,” he told the newspaper. “Our wireline business is getting stronger and as that gets stronger, it makes it easier.”

McAdam added that Verizon could buy the stake outright, or there are “lots of different ways we could do it…”

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$CG Raises $796 Million in Pacific Insurance Group Sale

Carlyle Group LP (CG) raised about $796 million from the sale of its remaining shares in China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co. (2601), cementing profits from its largest investment in China as the firm raises money for its biggest Asia buyout fund.

The Washington-based private-equity firm sold almost 204 million shares, a 2.2 percent stake, in the Shanghai- headquartered insurer at HK$30.30, the top end of the offering range of HK$30 to HK$30.30 apiece, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News. China Pacific fellby the most in more than a month after rising 23 percent since Dec. 3 amid a surge in Chinese stocks…”

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$HRL to Buy Skippy Peanut Butter from $UL for $700 Million

“AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) — Hormel Foods apparently has a hankering for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. The company primarily known for cured, smoked and deli meats said Thursday that it’s buying Skippy, the country’s No. 2 peanut butter brand, for about $700 million.

Skippy, which was introduced in 1932 and is a staple in American pantries, is intended to increase Hormel’s presence in the center of the supermarket where shelf-stable foods are sold. It also gives the Austin, Minn.-based company a clearer path for growth overseas; Skippy is sold in about 30 countries and is the leading peanut butter brand in China, where Hormel is also looking to expand its Spam line….”

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$MSFT Acquires Startup id8 Group R2 Studios

“SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp bought start-up id8 Group R2 Studios Inc as it looks to expand further in technology focused on the home and entertainment, a person familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

id8 Group R2 Studios was started in 2011 by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Blake Krikorian. It recently launched a Google Android application to allow users to control home heating and lighting systems from smartphones.

Krikorian’s Sling Media – which was sold to EchoStar Communications in 2007 – made the “Slingbox” for watching TV on computers…”

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