January 1, 2008 / 8:57 PM / 11 years ago

PHH ends proposed merger with GE, Blackstone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mortgage and vehicle fleet company PHH Corp (PHH.N) said on Tuesday it terminated its nearly $2 billion sale to General Electric Co (GE.N) and Blackstone, after the private equity firm failed to obtain required financing for the deal.

In this file photo the Chief Executive of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman, attends the annual Confederation of British Industries (CBI) conference in Islington in central London, November 26, 2007. Mortgage and vehicle fleet company PHH Corp said on Tuesday it terminated its nearly $2 billion sale to General Electric Co and Blackstone, after the private equity firm failed to obtain required financing for the deal. REUTERS/Toby Melville

GE and the Blackstone Group (BX.N) had agreed in March to acquire PHH for $1.8 billion. Under the terms, GE would retain PHH’s vehicle fleet company PHH Arval and would have sold PHH Mortgage to Blackstone immediately after closing.

“The board will determine in due course whether to continue to explore the company’s strategic alternatives,” A.B. Krongard, nonexecutive chairman, said in a statement.

The company said it will not disclose any developments until the board has made a decision. PHH has requested a termination fee of $50 million from the Blackstone Group.

Blackstone said it shared PHH’s disappointment in the outcome.

“Blackstone was prepared to close its end of the transaction using the financing that in March was originally committed to be made available,” spokesman John Ford said in an e-mail to Reuters. “We regret that the banks are now unwilling to provide financing under the terms they originally agreed to.”

The Blackstone spokesman said the company was not prepared to comment on whether it would pay the $50 million termination fee.

Ford also could not comment on whether Blackstone would take legal action against the banks financing the leveraged buyout — JPMorgan (JPM.N) and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. LEH.N

PHH shares closed on Monday at $17.64, down 14 cents on the New York Stock Exchange. In March, the GE and Blackstone deal valued the company at $31.50 per share, and PHH stock had traded as high as $31.52 in July.

The deal termination follows turmoil in the credit markets, which has made financing of leveraged buyouts (LBOs) much more difficult.

With the cost of financing going up, other recent LBOs that have been canceled include those of student lender SLM Corp SLM.N, audio equipment maker Harman International Industries Inc HAR.N and equipment renter United Rentals Inc (URI.N).

Private equity firms had been the engine for much of the merger boom, accounting for as much as 41 percent of total U.S. merger volume as of the first week of July, but only 15 percent of weekly merger volume in the second half of 2007, according to Thomson Financial.

In the second half of the year, total global merger activity declined 27 percent, and U.S. activity fell 46 percent, Thomson said.

Reporting by Nick Zieminski, additional reporting by Sweta Singh in Bangalore and Dan Wilchins in New York, editing by Matthew Lewis

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