Newsstand: A week in business media

Merger mania carries on regardless
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The Independent Online

Though investors spent the week panicking about a possible end to the takeover boom, there were few signs that merger and acquisition activity is drying up yet.

Life insurance groups Resolution and Friends Provident confirmed on Monday that they were in merger talks, agreeing just two days later to a £8.6bn all-share union. The reason for their haste became clear on Friday, as rival Pearl Assurance threatened to muscle in on the deal.

Delta Two also faced opposition to its takeover plan for J Sainsbury, with both the Sainsbury family and property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz letting it be known that they would accept the Qatari investment fund's 600p-a-share offer for the supermarket group.

Rio Tinto formally launched its $38.1bn (£18.8bn) agreed offer for Canada's Alcan, while Barclays looked to regain the initiative from Royal Bank of Scotland with a raised offer for ABN Amro to ¿67.5bn (£45.4bn). Signs of pressure on profit margins put the squeeze on insurer Legal & General, whose results left it among the week's biggest blue-chip casualties, despite a pledge to buy back £1bn of shares.

'Markets are best as a spectator sport'


In 'The Times' on the fears of a credit crunch that have rattled the markets. Though corporate earnings remain robust, falling equity prices can prompt a downward spiral as investors look for the safety of bonds and cash. "There are times when the markets are best appreciated as a spectator sport".

'Deals are being financed with cash'


In the 'Financial Times' on predictions that the mergers and acquisitions market will soon peak. Some recent price tags look mind-boggling, but takeover premiums are still lower than in 2000. "Most deals are being financed with cash instead of shares. This can only be healthy."

'Foreign acquisitions are inevitable'


In the 'Evening Standard' on investment in Western companies from Asia and the Middle East. "Blackstone, Barclays and Sainsbury's are just the start of a process of foreign asset acquisition which is inevitable, given the Western enthusiasm for consumption and the Eastern determination to save."

'A tenth of homes are on flood plains'

The Economist's leader column on what to do about the floods. The insurance industry has to scrap a muddled, unwritten agreement with government that gives most households free flood cover. "A tenth of English homes are on flood plains. If it costs more to insure [them], their price will be lower and developers will be less keen to build them."