Daily News: Google, Barclays, Oracle, HPQ

  • Air Products sweetens Airgas bid. Air Products & Chemicals (APD) raised its bid for Airgas (ARG) to $65.50 a share from $63.50; the offer is a 50% premium to Airgas’ share price before an offer was first made in February, but is lower than Airgas’ Friday close of $66.67. The bid is contingent on Airgas electing Air Products’ board nominees next week. Airgas said it would review the offer and urged shareholders to take no action at this time.
  • DoJ probes Google’s ITA deal. The Justice Department has reportedly opened an antitrust probe into Google’s (GOOG) $700M deal to purchase travel software firm ITA Software. Sources say the investigation is still in an early stage, and is focused on whether Google could unfairly disadvantage potential new rivals by cutting off their access to ITA’s software or unfairly steer web searchers to its own travel services. Google had previously disclosed that the Justice Department had asked for more information on the deal, but hadn’t specified the department’s concerns. Premarket: GOOG -0.5% (7:00 ET).
  • Miners waver as Aussie’s Labor takes power. Australia’s Labor Party narrowly secured a second term today, winning the support of two independent lawmakers to form a minority government. The country had been in political deadlock since Aug. 21 when a national election failed to give a clear mandate to either Labor or the conservative Liberal-National coalition. Miners, which had gotten a boost in August on hopes a Liberal government would scupper the controversial mega-mining tax, are trading down this morning: In London, Xstrata -2.7%. Premarket U.S.: RTP -3.8%, BHP -2.6%. Aussie dollar -0.65% against the U.S. dollar (7:00 ET).
  • New chief for Barclays. Barclays (BCS) confirmed that Bob Diamond, the head of its investment bank, will become the firm’s chief executive when current CEO John Varley steps down in March 2011. Diamond lacks experience in retail banking or credit cards, both major components of Barclays’ business in the U.S. and Europe, but he has built Barclays Capital from scratch into a multibillion-pound operation. Premarket: BCS -5.2% (7:00 ET).
  • Hurd finds a home at Oracle. Oracle (ORCL) confirmed weekend rumors that Mark Hurd, the ousted CEO of H-P (HPQ), will join the company as co-president and a member of the board of directors. Analysts said the move is a coup for Oracle as the company is aggressively branching out and increasingly coming into competition with firms like H-P and IBM (IBM). Premarket: ORCL +4.4% (7:00 ET).
  • HSBC chairman expected to step down. HSBC (HBC) Chairman Stephen Green is reportedly stepping down from his post to become U.K. Trade Minister. Sources say an announcement will be made later today, and that HSBC has no immediate plan to name a permanent successor for Green. Premarket: HBC +0.2% (7:00 ET).
  • AIG considers new sale of Taiwan unit. AIG (AIG) is leaning towards a new sale of its Taiwan unit after regulators rejected AIG’s $2.2B deal with China Strategic and Primus Financial. AIG said it’s still discussing its next move, but in a filing with Hong Kong regulators yesterday it indicated its current view that “it would be in the best interests of the parties to terminate the share purchase agreement.” Several Taiwanese banks have expressed interest in the unit.
  • Basel III to boost capital requirements. The Basel Committee will require global banks to hold Tier 1 capital of 9%, according to a draft proposal obtained by German weekly Die Zeit, and will be able to demand banks accumulate an “anti-cyclical buffer” of 3% so that Tier 1 capital requirements can rise to 12% in boom times. This is a significant jump from the present requirements, under which banks are required to have a Tier 1 ratio of no less than 4%. Regulators and central bank officials are meeting today to finalize the Basel III package.
  • New spending, tax relief proposed to spur growth. Obama called on Congress to approve a six-year public works program that would spend $50B upfront on upgrades to roads, rail lines and airport runways in an effort to combat unemployment. The administration said it will work with Congress to fund the plan without adding to the deficit, perhaps by cutting subsidies on oil and gas exploration and production. However, lawmakers preparing for the midterm elections may not provide the zippy approval Obama is hoping for. Obama is also expected to announce this week an expanded tax incentive to encourage business investment.

Source: SeekingAlpha