Global Investing Roundup

BlueScope Broadens Base with IMSA Acquisition; Lifetime Moves Into Mexico with Ekco; Deal Will Allow Chinese Online Consumers to Buy From U.S. Retailers; Daito Founder Puts His $1.7 Billion Stake on the Block 

  • BlueScope Steel Ltd., Australia’s largest steelmaker, announced yesterday (Thursday) that it would pay $730 million for IMSA Steel Corp., the Associated Press reported. Acquiring IMSA, which had sales of $1.27 billion in 2006, will more than double BlueScope’s U.S. operations. It will also make BlueScope the second-largest steel-building construction company in the United States. IMSA operates in the non-residential construction steel market and has 23 plants across the country. Paul O’Malley, BlueScope’s chief executive officer, noted that the move doubles his company’s current customer base of commercial builders. He also pointed out that while the data used in making the decision accounted for a slowdown in the U.S. economy in 2008, the company’s current customers have yet to face any serious backlash. BlueScope will spend $60 million over the next three years to combine IMSA with its current operations but expects cost savings of $40 million a year once the merger is complete. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first-half of 2008.

  • Lifetime Brands Inc. (LCUT), a leader in the North American market for branded kitchenware, announced yesterday (Thursday), that it had completed its purchase of a 30% stake in Ekco SAB, Mexico’s largest houseware company. Lifetime will pay $23 million for its share of Ekco, which distributes products under its own brand and other brand names such as Vasconia, Presto and Thermos. Earlier this year, Ekco bought Industria Mexican del Aluminio S.A., one of the largest aluminum smelters and rolling mills. The company expects to have sales of $90 million and net profits around $5 million in 2007. In a statement announcing the partnership, Jeffrey Seigel, chief executive officer of Lifetime, said Ekco would be an ideal partner for the distribution of Lifetime products in Mexico and South America. He also said he expects Vasconia cookware to sell well in the United States.

  • Chinese consumers will be able to buy online from U.S. retailers in the near future thanks to an agreement between Alipay – a division of Chinese Internet Company Ltd. – and New York-based consulting and advisory firm Philliou Selwanes Partners. Alipay is the largest independent online payment platform, with more than 56 million users and a market share of 54% in the fast growing Chinese e-commerce marketplace. Its daily transaction volume is over $23 million with an average of 1.17 million transactions daily. Opportunities in China for U.S. retailers have been curtailed by the differing payment systems. The new arrangement will remove many of these barriers and make it easier for retailers to sell directly to the Chinese marketplace, Phillip Philliou said in a statement. Jonathan Lu, president of Alipay, added that it was his company’s mission to make it easy to do business everywhere and expanding service in North America was a natural step.

  • Katsumi Tada, the founder and chairman of Japanese property developer Daito Trust Construction Co. (PINK:DITTF) is auctioning his 28% stake in the company in a deal that could be worth as much as $1.7 billion at current prices, Reuters reported. Several major private equity firms are said to be bidding, and the shares are expected to trade at a premium to current market levels. As Japan’s economic conditions improve, prices for commercial property rose for the first time in 16 years in 2006. The real estate divisions of investment banks Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEH), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and private equity firm Aetos Capital, LLC are expected to submit bids for Tada’s shares in the company. There is speculation that the winning bidder will team up with Daito Trust Management to take the company private, a deal that could be worth more than $10 billion. This is the latest of several Japanese property transactions and buyouts this year. According to data-tracking company Dealogic, there have been 478 real estate deals so far this year with a combined price tag of $31.2 billion. Japanese investment bank Nomura Holdings, Inc. (NMR) will accept and review the bid proposals for Tada’s shares.