Wednesday, 5 December 2007

New Bid for Northern Rock by Olivant

The former Abbey chief executive consortium (Olivant) led by Luqman Arnold, is expected to table a revised bid for Northern Rock by the end of tomorrow. It is understood that Olivant is to be in talks with both Northern Rock and potential funding banks as it hammers out the final details of its offer. This comes after revised bids from JC Flowers and Cerberus, the American private equity firms, despite Virgin Group winning preferred-bidder status in the auction of the troubled Newcastle-based bank.

The bank was forced to seek emergency funding from the Bank of England after it failed to raise cash in the wholesale markets as a result of the credit crunch. Meanwhile, staff at Northern Rock have been handed a £200 Christmas bonus and are also understood to have received a 2% one-off sum and 4% salary increase.

Shares in Northern Rock closed down 6p at 103p yesterday. (source: Timesonline)

News Corporation, parent company of The Times, bought the leading American religious website Beliefnet yesterday for an undisclosed amount in an effort to tap the faith market in a country where 88% of the population say that they pray regularly.

Beliefnet, formed eight years ago, attracts 3.1 million monthly users. It was sold by its founder Steve Waldman, who wanted to find a big media company willing to provide investment that the standalone business could not afford.

News Corp is perhaps best-known for its newspapers, with titles such as The Sun and the New York Post, and mass entertainment through the 20th Century Fox film studio. However, the media group also owns a handful of faith-based businesses, including Zondervan, the largest Christian publisher in the United States, and Fox Faith, which makes faith-based films.

Appealing to a Christian audience is big business in the United States, where films such as Walt Disney’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are marketed, at least partly, at a Christian audience. Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of Christ earned $611 million (£295 million) worldwide despite an uncompromising narrative, of which $370 million (£135 million) was taken in the United States.

The website will be absorbed into News Corp’s Fox Entertainment Group, owner of the Hollywood film studio, rather than its Fox Interactive Media division, which is the group that includes MySpace, the social networking website. (source: Timesonline)

Founder of the five-year old Nectar card programme, Sir Keith Mills, set himself up for a £161m payday yesterday after agreeing to sell the customer loyalty company he started. Aeroplan, operator of Air Canada's frequent-flier programme, agreed to pay £350 million ($700 million) in cash for Loyalty Management Group, in which Sir Keith holds a 46% stake. Most of the company's management, including the chief executive Alex Moorhead, will stay at LMG, though Sir Keith will step down as chairman.

Warburg Pincus, the private equity firm that granted £25 million ($50 million) in start-up funding for the business five years ago, will pocket about £117 million for its one-third stake, with the remainder going to certain top managers who held the balance of the private company's shares.

Nectar runs loyalty programmes with partners including J Sainsbury, BP, Barclaycard, and Debenhams. (source: The Independent)

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