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Russian Roulette, Generic Buyout
BP faces a tough fight at a key Russian joint venture. Japan
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EWS AT A GLANCE

BP faces turmoil in Russian joint venture

BP PLC said its Russian partners in the joint TNK-BP oil venture are staging a boardroom coup, in the latest struggle over control and direction of Russia’s third-largest oil producer. BP relies on the project for a quarter of its output. (Bloomberg) The venture already faces a tax probe and other challenges from the Russian government, and now the four Russian billionaire partners, grouped in the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium, are reportedly demanding greater control and the ouster of TNK-BP CEO Robert Dudley. Much of the conflict is over which member of the 50-50 partnership will have to sell its stake if, as speculated, one of Russia’s two state-controlled oil giants force their way in. (Reuters)

Japan’s Daiichi buys Indian generics giant Ranbaxy

Daiichi Sankyo, Japan’s No. 3 drugmaker, agreed to buy majority control of India’s largest drug company, Ranbaxy Laboratories, for as much as $4.6 billion. Ranbaxy, one of India’s largest companies, is a leading maker of generic drugs worldwide; Daiichi is best known for its blood-pressure drug Benicar. (Reuters) The friendly offer is 31 percent higher than Ranbaxy’s closing price yesterday and values the Indian company at $8.5 billion. “This signals that there is a lot of value in the Indian pharmaceutical industry,” said Jayesh Shroff at SBI Asset Management Co. in Mumbai. Daiichi’s Japanese competitors, facing expiring patents, have spent $14 billion on acquisitions since last November. (Bloomberg)

Staples wins bid for Dutch rival

Dutch office supply wholesaler Corporate Express agreed to retailer Staples’ sweetened $2.6 billion takeover bid, after rejecting three earlier offers. Including acquired debt, the deal is worth $4.8 billion. (AP in CNNMoney.com) As part of the deal, Corporate Express agreed to drop its bid for French rival Lyreco, triggering a $46 million breakup fee. (Reuters) “Corporate Express managed to get a fairly good price, especially given the uncertain economic situation in the U.S.,” said analyst Herman Huizinga at Keijser Securities in Amsterdam. The merger will strengthen Staples’ most profitable business, selling office supplies to businesses, and make it the world leader in that category. (Bloomberg)

The movie calendar game

Movie studios and distributors released 517 films last year, a new record and a 49 percent jump over a decade earlier. With an average of 10 movies opening each weekend, scheduling film launches is getting to be a big operation, with lots of strategy involved. The spike in films, made possible by increasing investment from private equity firms and hedge funds, has resulted in many getting lost in the shuffle or cannibalized by similar movies. And the studios all want to avoid a repeat of last Oct. 18, when 16 films opened. “When you’re trying to cram too many movies into a finite number of release dates, it’s inevitable some will suffer,” said Tom Rothman at 20th Century Fox. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

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