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    The following are the top stories in the Financial Times. Headlines. * Etihad backs IAG 1.35 bln euros Aer Lingus bid. * Airbus speeds sale of Dassault Aviation stake to raise 1.64 bln euros. * Balfour warns of 'major challenges' after reporting 304 mln stg loss. * RBS to sell as much as $3.7 bln in Citizens shares. Overview.

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    Mexican auto parts maker Rassini raised 1.3 billion pesos in a secondary share offer on Wednesday, shareholder GBM said in a statement. The company sold 18,150,000 A shares at 30 pesos per share and 12,675,000 ordinary certificates at 60 pesos each.

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    Reston-based contractor Leidos (LDOS) posted lower sales and a loss for the fiscal year, dragged down by struggles in its commercial health and engineering business, the company said Wednesday.As part of chief executive Roger Krone’s efforts to reshape the company’s operations, the contractor also announced the sale of a struggling Connecticut power plant that hurt sales and profits in 2014.Krone, who was appointed last year, and other Leidos (LDOS) executives struck an optimistic note about the company’s growth prospects, citing an improving defense spending environment and higher sales in its federal health and engineering business. That segment saw an increase in sales in Leidos’s fourth quarter.“I am encouraged by the broader indications from our key markets and, in particular, that the government budget seemed to be bottoming,” Krone said in a call with investors.Krone has been newly appointed chairman of the board, taking over from John P. Jumper, who oversaw the company’s move in 2013 to split itself into two. Leidos (LDOS) was widely believed to have a stronger business after the reorganization, but it has lagged behind its more profitable spinoff, McLean-based Science Applications International Corp.The Plainfield, Conn., plant that Leidos (LDOS) inherited from the former combination cost the company more than $40 million in goodwill impairment charges as well as operating losses in 2014. The plant, which produces energy from turning discarded wood, suffered repeated power outages and did not meet its energy production goals, costing Leidos (LDOS) $6 million in losses in the last quarter alone.The plant will be sold to Greenleaf Power Consolidated, a California renewable energy company, for $30 million in cash and $80 million in secured notes, a write-down of $40 million, Leidos (LDOS) said. The transaction is expected to close in the middle of the year, executives said.“While we are disappointed with the further impairment to the value embedded in the sales price, we do believe for many reasons that accepting this offer was the best course of action for the company and our shareholders,” Mark Sopp, Leidos’s chief financial officer, told investors.The contractor’s focus on its core national security and federal health business, another aspect of Krone’s strategy, appear to be paying off.Leidos (LDOS) won contracts to provide health IT services to private companies, the Army and international customers, including the British government, in the last quarter.Leidos (LDOS) reported sales of $5.06 billion for the fiscal year, compared with $5.75 billion in the previous year, and recorded a loss of $323 million, or $4.36 per share, compared with a profit of $161 million, or $1.94 per share, in the previous year.




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    Merck's new buyback program signals a dearth of profitable investment opportunities. Investors should take that as good news. The drug manufacturer is expanding its share-repurchase program by $10 billion, which brings the total authorized amount to $11.7 billion.

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    Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co bought financial information and advisory website LearnVest.com to compete more directly with wealth management companies, its top executive said on Wednesday. "I've always said our real competitors are not other insurance companies," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Schlifske said in a telephone interview.

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    It could have been the great tomato mashup. Now investors in Campbell Soup (CPB) may be left hanging on the vine thanks to the company's large family-owned stake. Heinz's agreement Wednesday to merge with Kraft Foods Group (KRFT) looks set to create a new global food giant.

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    There's plenty of sluggish food companies ripe for being bought. After the merger agreement between Kraft Foods (KRFT) and Heinz was announced on Wednesday, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, whose company will own a $9.5 billion stake in the combined company, called the deal "my kind of transaction, uniting two world-class organizations and delivering shareholder value." But Buffett didn't tell the whole story.

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    Telefonica Brasil SA (VIV) plans to raise up to $4 billion in fresh capital through a rights issue that will be announced as early as Thursday, two sources with direct knowledge of the deal told Reuters. The sources, who requested anonymity because the deal remains private, said Spain's Telefonica SA (TEF) will subscribe $2.8 billion of the rights issue, with the rest placed with investors.

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    NEW YORK-- As 3 G Capital Partners prepares to acquire Kraft Food Group Inc., the Brazilian investment firm faces plenty of work. In the eyes of Citibank analyst David Driscoll, the deal to purchase Kraft, whose stock was trading upward of$ 80 Wednesday, is far too pricey. "We have a hard time understanding a deal taking place at such a high valuation given the characteristics of Kraft's business," he wrote in a note.

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    Brazil's Vale SA may find it easier to dispose of giant ships and part of its stake in a rail logistics business before selling mining assets, as the world's top iron ore producer looks to raise cash amid a price rout, according to four sources with knowledge of the situation.

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    Go ahead, make all the cracks you want about men asking for directions less often than women. There may just be some truth to the idea.Research has shown that having more female directors on a corporate board is linked with better stock performance in choppy markets, higher return on equity, fewer governance-related scandals and cheaper mergers. And now a new study in the Journal of Risk and Financial Management adds yet another possible advantage: Boards with a higher number of female directors are more likely to ask top-ranked financial advisers for help when it comes to assessing the price at which their companies will sell.The researchers, from the University of British Columbia and the University of Utah, looked at nearly 500 companies that were the targets of mergers or acquisitions. It found that for every woman added to the board at these companies, there was a roughly 7 percent increase in the use of top-ranked advisers.Kai Li, one of the study's researchers, had previously looked at the link between testosterone levels and merger activity, as well as between female directors and acquisition price. Her latest findings, she said, are yet another argument for greater diversity on boards. "When there is an offer on the table, female directors do more due diligence by seeking high-quality outside opinion," Li said in an interview. "Diversity in the workplace, in the business decision-making process and in leadership roles is quite important and helps create shareholder value."While boards being targeted in a merger almost always hire some kind of adviser, Li and her colleagues wanted to examine how the gender makeup of directors correlated with asking for help from top investment banks, which the researchers ranked based on average annual deal value. More market share, and more advising on deals, Li said, implies more experience and expertise across industries. That should generally lead to higher-quality advice, she said.Notably, in the case of "bidder boards" (those doing the acquiring), the study showed no link between the gender composition of a board and the advice it sought. That could be for several reasons, according to Li. For instance, when they're bidding, boards are more interested in getting advice on strategies for combining the two organizations, rather than on deal price. Litigation risks are also lower for "bidders" who take a high price than for "sellers" who accept a low one.Li's study began with a sample of all M&A deals initiated between 1997 and 2010, and then winnowed the list down based on factors such as whether data was available on deal characteristics and board make-up. Their final list comprised 2,595 "bidder boards" and 483 "target" boards.Li said she and her colleagues are open to other possible explanations for their findings—CEOs who like to seek advice might already be inclined to hire a more diverse board, for instance, or more female directors could just be a mark of a larger company that has more relationships with big banks.Still, she noted, the link between gender and advice-seeking is an "important association." Men have been shown to be more overconfident, yet cautiousness can be key when it comes to evaluating potential deals. "Having more women on the board, and more diversity of opinion, helps to preserve shareholder value," Li said.Read also:More women on boards, cheaper mergersLike On Leadership? Follow us on Facebook (FB) and Twitter.




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    Cable company cites regulatory delays. Cable giant Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) said Wednesday its expects its merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) to close in the middle of the year, a delay from its earlier guidance that it would be completed in early 2015.. In a blog post, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said recent regulatory delays, including the Federal Communications Commission's decision this month to pause its informal "shot clock" for completing the review, contributed to...

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    Now expected in middle of 2015. Cable giant Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) said Wednesday it expects its merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. to close in the middle of the year, a delay from its earlier guidance that it would be completed in early 2015.. In a blog post, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said recent regulatory delays, including the Federal Communications Commission's decision this month to pause its informal "shot clock" for completing the review, contributed to the...

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     Heinz and Kraft Foods  announced a blockbuster merger on Wednesday morning that would create the fifth-largest food company in the world and the third-largest in North America. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway  and 3G Capital will invest $10 billion in the combined company, which will be called The Kraft Heinz Company. But let's not forget Buffett's history with Kraft.