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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.

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    The 35% surge in Kraft Foods Group Inc.' s stock, following news of its, is lifting the tide for the shares of other food companies early Wednesday. The stock of Mondelez International (MDLZ), which brands include Oreo, Nabisco and Trident, rallied 2.3% in premarket trade. That could be making Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A), which owned 578,000 Mondelez (MDLZ) shares as of Dec. 31, about $462,400, in addition to the more than $4 million he's making on his.

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    Sector's outperformance could for at least a few months. Food stocks were getting a nice lift Wednesday, in the face of weakness in broader market, as the buyout of Kraft Foods Group (KRFT) by H.J. Heinz Co. is fueling investors' appetite for other potential takeover candidates.

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    Borse Dubai is selling its remaining 17.4 percent stake in London Stock Exchange (LDNXF) via an accelerated book building process, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday. Bank of America (BAC), Barclays (BCS) and Nomura are joint bookrunners on the stake sale, which is worth around 1.5 billion pounds based on LSE's closing price of 2,538 pence, the source told Reuters.

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    Welcome to Main Street Morning, The Washington Post’s daily collection of news affecting entrepreneurs  start-ups and small businesses  with a special focus on policy and government. Here’s what’s affecting my small business my clients and other entrepreneurs today.  Washington •  The government is revising its definition of what it means to farm. •  Amazon blasts the FAA for its slow progress on drone regulation. •  The IRS reports that federal workers owe more than $3.5 billion in unpaid taxes. •  The number of uninsured people has dropped by 11.4 million since 2010 as a result of the healthcare law but a conservative columnist agrees that at the same time it’s “blowing away” the expectations of its critics. •  The SBA’s chief believes that small businesses must export east to maintain U.S. leadership. •  Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy announcement is expected soon. The Economy •  Rising gas costs are helping to lift U.S. consumer prices. •  New home sales have reached their highest level in seven years. •  Manufacturing activity contracted in the Virginia region this month. People •  Why closing on a snow day isn’t an option for some small business owners. •  Charlie Hebdo’s staff are feuding over money from its increased revenues since January’s deadly shootings. Retail •  Here are all of Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S. •  Unfortunately, the golden days of “40 percent off” sales are over. Start-up •  A consultant to early-stage tech companies explains why describing your start-up as “Uber for X” is a big mistake. •  Pinterest just made a deal with its employees that could rock the start-up world. •  A start-up creates a cool app just for moms. •  Go behind the scenes of the newest “ship to your enemies” start-up. •  There’s a start-up bus craze happening in San Francisco. •  A company that five Lee University students launched to help impoverished people earn a living in South Asia has won a regional faith-based business competition for start-ups. Online •  Why you should buy your .sucks domain before someone else does. Marketing •  Thanks to Google (GOOG), TV ads are about to start watching you. •  Marketers are expected to boost global ad spending this year to $540 billion. Restaurants •  Why the cash-only restaurant must die. Finance •   Twitter now has its own venture capital fund. •  A  company that is trying to kill e-mail as we know it is said to be in funding talks at a $2 billion-plus valuation. •  Here’s how to up your small company’s cash flow… fast! •  Two small Texas firms are testing an equity crowdfunding concept in the oil and gas industry. •  Even so, most small business owners haven’t caught the crowdfunding craze, according to a new report. Technology •  Software maker Intuit acquires human resources technology to help independent contractors. •  How smartphone users are making silly and unsafe choices. •  T iny tracking chips will help understand why bees are dying. Social Media •  Facebook (FB) introduces a new time-travel service and may be aiming to host more news content from media outlets. •  Twitter is launching a new “offensive tweet” filter. Opportunities •  With a few tweaks, Airbnb could disrupt yet another multibillion-dollar industry. Around the Country •  An Arkansas bill would let bosses force their employees to friend them on Facebook (FB). •  Uber makes a $25,000 investment in the University of Maryland’s “Startup Shell.” •  A Detroit business owner fears he’s losing the war against thieves. •  Manhattan’s Borough President has a plan to help mom and pop businesses mediate their leases. •  How a Texas business owner helped to stop sex trafficking. Around the World •  The Canadian government reverses its decision to end a long standing contract after re-considering the impact it would have on many disabled workers who depend on the work. •  Kabbage’s small business loan platform moves into the Asia-Pacific as a white-label service. Gene Marks owns the Marks Group  a Bala Cynwyd  Pa.  consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. Follow Gene Marks and On Small Business on Twitter.  News we should know about? Email us here.




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    NEW YORK-- The Brazilian investment company behind the merger of Kraft Foods Group Inc. (KRFT) and Heinz already owns or has significant stakes in a number of iconic American brands. Beyond Heinz and likely Kraft, 3 G Capital Partners LP bought Burger King through a leveraged buyout in 2010. It has since added Canadian coffee-and-doughnut food chain Tim Hortons Inc. and holds them through Restaurant Brands International Inc. (QSR). It also was behind the 2008 hostile bid for Anheuser Busch...

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    Taking aim soon at America’s growing love of fresh food: A billion-dollar mega-marriage of sugary ketchup and processed cheese.H.J. Heinz and Kraft Foods Group said Wednesday that they would merge to form one of the world’s biggest food empires, combining two of the most iconic names in the American kitchen and potentially signaling a big changes for how the country eats.The Kraft Heinz Co., headquartered in both Pittsburgh and the Chicago area, will become North America’s third-largest food and drink empire, owning eight household-name chow brands with annual sales of $1 billion or more.Heinz and Kraft’s classic staples are hallmarks of the American family meal. Heinz makes ketchup, Bagel Bites and Classico pasta sauce. Kraft’s brands include Capri Sun, Cheez Whiz, Cool Whip, Jell-O, Kool Aid, Lunchables, Oscar Mayer and Velveeta, as well as its namesake dressing, mayo and macaroni and cheese.  The company says its products can be found in a staggering 98 percent of North American households.But sales of Kraft’s once-beloved, heavily processed grub have crumbled in recent years, as the country shows a changing taste for seemingly fresher, more natural cuisine. Kraft’s earnings plunged more than 60 percent last year, even as the food giant began to replace executives and clean house.Increasingly health-conscious American shoppers, particularly younger eaters, have boosted sales for foods offering organic or local ingredients, but Kraft has grown only more dependent on its processed staples: The largest part of its revenue last year, at more than $4 billion, was cheese.[Read: Your healthy eating habits are hurting the packaged foods industry]Product embarrassments — including a recall this month of more than 6 million boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, some of which were found to have metal shards — have only solidified that repute.The takeover was engineered by legendary investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A) and 3G Capital Partners, a famed Brazilian buyout giant, both of which partnered in 2013 to buy ketchup giant Heinz for $23 billion.“This is my kind of transaction,” Buffett said in a statement. “Uniting two world-class organizations and delivering shareholder value. I’m excited by the opportunities for what this new combined organization will achieve.”It’s unclear how Kraft’s offerings could change under the new label. The Brazilian firm has a reputation for gobbling up sagging consumer favorites, aggressively slashing costs and reshaping brands in hopes of garnering better business. Reworking the century-old Kraft’s ultra-processed, packaged fare into something modern Americans will want to eat, analysts said, might be one of their first big moves.“Unless the combined company focuses on [product innovation],” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consulting firm Conlumino, “it will ultimately end up being larger but no more successful than the standalone companies are today.”Other Big Food empires have waged big gambles in hopes of capturing the growing trend toward healthier cuisine. General Mills announced in September it would buy Annie’s, one of the nation’s biggest producers of natural and organic food, in a deal worth $820 million. Hershey, the chocolate titan, expanded into natural snacks in January by buying Krave Foods, a maker of “healthy gourmet jerky.”Though the push for foods with a cleaner, greener image was long derided as a fad, analysts said the soaring sales of healthy-food companies forced food conglomerates to finally take notice. Organic food sales jumped 11 percent last year, to $35 billion, Organic Trade Association data show. Sales of high-protein health-and-wellness bars, Krave’s main market, are growing at more than twice the speed of the overall food industry.“Today’s healthier consumer is not just the fringe that are dieticians and nutritionists,” said Greg Wank, chairman of the food and beverage services group at Anchin, Block & Anchin, a corporate advisory firm. “Everyone on the street is more aware what’s in their food, and when they start to look at the labels in their processed food, they’re finding stuff they don’t want to put in their body.”But some market watchers criticized Kraft for doing too little to adapt to a healthier food marketplace. Earlier this month, when a national trade group of dietitians awarded a nutrition seal to Kraft Singles, the American cheese slices technically labeled “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product,” health advocates criticized the move as a shocking message for American kids.The deep-pocketed buyout kings, 3G and Berkshire, have also not unveiled their plans for the Kraft-Heinz powerhouse, which will show combined yearly revenues of about $28 billion. But the companies said annual cost savings from merging the two brands could reach $1.5 billion by the end of 2017.When Berkshire and private-equity firm 3G bought Heinz, the firm saw plants closed, jobs cut and budgets squeezed under a fierce cost-cutting plan. (A favorite phrase of Carlos Alberto Sicupira, one of Brazilian billionaires who heads 3G: “Costs are like fingernails: You have to cut them constantly.”)Both companies’ boards unanimously approved the merger, but the deal will still need approval from Kraft’s shareholders and federal regulators. The deal is scheduled to close later this year.It’s unclear just how antitrust regulators will size up the new global mega-firm. “Just getting bigger is not a violation of antitrust,” said Ben Gomes-Casseres, a professor at the Brandeis International Business School in Boston. “These two are not in the same market, besides being processed foods. … I don’t expect the price of ketchup to go up.”But some market watchers said the mega-merger signaled a worrying new boost for Big Food, further consolidating power in fewer monolithic brands and shrinking the variety of prices and products on supermarket shelves.“All these food-space mergers give (buyers) the illusion of choice. They’re thinking, ‘Oh gosh, look at all these brands,’” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute. “But what the consumer doesn’t see is the smaller and smaller number of manufacturers maintaining those brands. It doesn’t mean they compete with each other — they don’t — and that gives them significant power to raise prices and reduce choice.”Kraft shares soared more than 40 percent in morning trading. Heinz shareholders will own 51 percent of the new company, and Kraft shareholders will take the rest, plus a $16.50 dividend per share funded by Berkshire and 3G.It is only the latest big-business shakeup for Kraft, which split from its global snacking business in 2012. That company, now called Mondelez International (MDLZ), owns Cadbury (CSG), Chips Ahoy, Oreo, Ritz and Wheat Thins. In December, Kraft named former PepsiCo head John Cahill its new chief executive, saying he would examine the flagging business anew. Two months later, after the company reported a $400 million quarterly loss, Kraft’s chief financial officer and two other top leaders stepped down.Heinz chief executive and 3G partner Bernardo Hees will lead the new company. Alex Behring, another 3G partner, will become chairman, and Kraft chief executive John Cahill will become vice chairman.The takeover could pave the way for even further expansion by 3G into America’s pantries, and executives there have reportedly eyed brands like Campbell Soup (CPB) and PepsiCo as ripe for takeover. “These guys have global ambitions,” Buffett told the Wall Street Journal in January.




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    You can add Velveeta and Maxwell House to the Warren Buffett food portfolio. Heinz, owned by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A) and Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital, is buying Kraft. Buffett famously called Berkshire's purchase of railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe an all-in wager on America's economy, The Kraft deal is an extension of that. Berkshire also owns Dairy Queen and See's Candies.

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    The following are mergers under review by the European Commission and a brief guide to the EU merger process: APPROVALS AND WITHDRAWALS. -- German insurer Talanx and Portuguese Mota-Engil to jointly acquire Portuguese company Indaqua Industry and Water Management SA. NEW LISTINGS.

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    Canada's competition watchdog on Wednesday approved Postmedia's proposed takeover of Quebecor Inc's Sun Media English-language newspapers and websites, paving a path for Postmedia to control a majority of the English-language dailies in Canada.

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    European Union antitrust regulators have suspended their investigation into Siemens' $7.6 billion bid for U.S. oilfield equipment maker Dresser-Rand Group (DRC) while waiting for more data from the German industrial group. The European Commission suspended its probe on March 19, a filing on its website showed on Wednesday.