The (early) Lunch Wrap | FT Alphaville

The (early) Lunch Wrap

Good morning New York,


If the GPIF suit fits… We took a look at Abe’s plan to shake up Japan’s enormous Government Pension Investment Fund and wondered if there was really much shaking to be done.


Russian stocks have slid for a sixth day running, the market’s longest losing streak in more than a year, as the west readies a new round of sanctions on Russian officials and companies over the Ukrainian crisis. A diplomatic agreement signed earlier this month has already unravelled, as pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have refused to lay down their arms. Members of a German-led military observer team are now being held hostage in the separatist stronghold of Slavyansk, with a rebel leader calling them “prisoners of war”. (Financial Times)

A judge in the southern Egyptian town of Minya has recommended death sentences for 683 defendants, including Mohamed Badie, the guide or spiritual leader of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, on charges that include killing policemen during riots last August. (Financial Times)

From the wires:


Background: (Financial Times)

Shares in AstraZeneca jumped as much as 15 per cent on Monday morning after Pfizer confirmed its interest in a takeover of the UK pharmaceuticals group in what would be one of the biggest deals in the industry’s history. The New York-listed maker of Viagra on Monday confirmed it had contacted AstraZeneca at the weekend in a fresh attempt to open talks after the UK group rebuffed an initial approach in January. (Financial Times)

Sterling hits fresh five year high on Pfizer talk: Sterling gained as much as 0.3 per cent today to 1.6854 versus the US greenback, its strongest level since the summer of 2009. Against the euro the pound was virtually flat at 1.2143. The pound is comfortably the best performing G10 currency over the past 12 months as the economic recovery has spurred speculation that the Bank could be forced to raise rates sooner than it would like. (FastFT)

Swedish drugmaker Meda said it has rejected a sweetened second all-stock bid from Mylan in the US that would have valued it at over $9bn and “terminated” all contact between the two companies. (FastFT)

Chris Finlayson has resigned as chief executive of BG Group, the UK-based oil and gas group, after only 15 months in the job, citing personal reasons. Andrew Gould, BG’s chairman, will take over as interim executive chairman until a permanent replacement is found, the company said in a statement. He said there would be no change to BG’s plans. (Financial Times)

Ophir Energy has withdrawn its proposal to merge its business with Premier Oil after the FTSE 250 rival rejected its advances aimed at creating an enlarged exploration and production company with a market capitalisation of more than £3bn. The attempt by Ophir Energy to engineer a tie-up with its larger rival coincided with Premier Oil launching the search for a new chief executive after it announced Simon Lockett would be stepping down from the role in February. (Financial Times)

Shares in Goodman Fielder, one of Australia’s largest food groups, jumped 18 per cent per cent on Monday after it rebuffed a A$1.3bn (US$1.2bn) approach from Singapore-listed Wilmar International and First Pacific, a Hong Kong-based investment firm controlled by Indonesia’s Salim group. (Financial Times)

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba and mobile browser company UCWeb will launch a mobile search engine. The move is aimed at challenging rivals Baidu and Tencent and buttressing Alibaba’s presence on the mobile internet ahead of its US IPO later this year. (Financial Times)

German low-cost airline Air Berlin is calling on investors to raise €450m to finance a “comprehensive restructuring” of the business without changing its ownership structure. The airline said on Sunday night that its main shareholder Etihad Airways had subscribed to a subordinated bond worth €300m, and that it will issue a new bond worth at least €150m. It will make an exchange offer to bondholders with notes due in 2014 and 2015, offering new bonds with a maturity in 2019. Etihad is also extending a credit facility for Air Berlin from 2016 to 2021. (Financial Times)

Cat bond sales soar: Yield-starved investors are gambling that mother nature will be kind this year as they flock to a risky type of insurance-linked debt known as catastrophe bonds. Sales of “cat bonds” have hit a record level in the first four months of 2014 as insurance companies take advantage of investor appetite for a type of debt that offers higher yields as well as returns that are uncorrelated to other types of securities. (Financial Times)

Markets: News that the deal frenzy gripping the pharmaceuticals industry is continuing, with Pfizer confirming its approach for UK drugmaker AstraZeneca, allowed European markets to shrug off the concerns over Ukraine that had earlier overshadowed Asian markets. The FTSE 100 rose 0.4 per cent after a 15 per cent jump in AstraZeneca’s shares led to a strengthening of shares across the sector, with Shire up 3 per cent, GlaxoSmithKline up 1.1 per cent and Smith & Nephew up 1 per cent. The Euro Stoxx 50 was up O.4 per cent, Germany’s Dax rose 0.4 per cent and the CAC in Paris was up 0.3 per cent writes the FT’s Global Markets Overview.