Market-based signals, or prices, are extremely useful, but they have their limits. Thus, for some an initial public offering (IPO) of HSBC's UK retail arm would allow it to 'unlock' value and help its valuation recover to levels similar to Lloyd's, for example. Simply put, for those who follow that line of thought markets are overlooking the value inherent in that unit. So, despite the government's stake Lloyds now trades hands at 15 times' earnings, while stock in HSBC - despite its diversified portfolio - changes hands at only 12. As well, going public would help the lender better meet regulations which will force banks to ring-fence their retail operations. However, a float also entails potential risks. For one, HSBC would become less diversified. Furthermore, it would no longer be able to sacrifice profitability in the UK to benefit businesses elsewhere - minority investors would have none of that. Hence, HSBC would be well advised - as is so often the case - not to look to possible short-term gains. "If HSBC goes ahead, it should do so because it no longer sees the rationale of wholly owning a UK retail business, not because there is an opportunity to arbitrage a short-term divergence in valuation," the Financial Times' Lex column said.
Sometimes you just get lucky. That seems to be exactly what happened on Tuesday to Kentz Corporation. It announced that it will acquire oil and gas project process engineer Valerus from an American private equity seller for $435m or 8.4 times' historic earnings. The takeover target seems to be a perfect fit for the British outfit. There is little overlap between their core areas of expertise, as Kentz is mainly involved in the construction side and technical support. Rather, they are quite complementary. Both firms also have quite different geographical footprints and hence almost no clients in common. Valerus gets its bread and butter mainly from the Americas and is strong in shale gas, a new market for Kentz. The deal will be funded by debt the cost of which is estimated to be well below the expected return on investment. By analysts' estimates putting the two together will place Kentz on a price to earnings multiple of about 10 for 2014. That looks like a decent entry point for the shares, The Times' Tempus reported.
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