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Morning Meeting: Total has the cash to keep buying

Total headquarters near Paris.

JACQUES BRINON/Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

Welcome to the Morning Meeting, a quick roundup of news on deals and dealmakers from around the world.



Who's got the most cash to buy oil assets?

Exxon Mobil Corp.? No. Royal Dutch Shell Plc.? Afraid not. It's France's Total SA, which is sitting on about $19-bllion (U.S.) of cash and near-cash that it can use to buy reserves, according to a Bloomberg analysis Bloomberg analysis. Already, it's been the busiest buyer in the oil industry and there's likely to be more purchases in areas such as Canada and the U.S.

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Merrill aims for organic growth

Water-cooler and bar-side chatter on Bay St. during much of the messiest of the crisis revolved around one big topic: whither Merrill Lynch in Canada. The firm made it through thanks to a merger with Bank of America, and now has plans to use the heft and breadth to go from surviving to thriving in Canada.





Citi loses bankers and in rankings

After the departures of about a dozen key bankers in Europe, Citigroup Inc. is slipping down the rankings on the continent for businesses such as merger advice and equity underwriting. Actually, slipping is probably an understatement. The bank slumped to eighth place in merger advisory work from first last year, and it has basically disappeared from the initial public offering business, Bloomberg reported.





Lehman fees top $2-billion

The cost of dealing with Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc.'s bankruptcy is set to eclipse $2-billion, according to the Financial Times. The benchmark in huge failures such as WorldCom and Enron is fees that are about 1 per cent to 2 per cent of the assets. By that measure, given Lehman's $691-billion of assets, it's a steal of a deal.



Bond market busy

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Monday was an active day in the bond market, with issues from RioCan REIT and Continental Resources Inc. offered to Canadian buyers. RioCan came to market with a $100-million (U.S.) five-year note issue led by RBC Dominion Securities and Scotia Capital and aimed at Canadian investors. Continental Resources Inc. priced a 10-year $400-million issue, which is being sold to Canadian investors on a private placement basis. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland led.

Manulife Financial Corp. also started a new issue of 5- and 10-year paper in the U.S. The benchmark-sized deal can't be sold to Canadians. It's led by Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, according to a note from fixed-income strategist Sheldon Dong of TD Waterhouse.



Thomson unveils Bloomberg challenger

Thomson Reuters has taken the wraps off Eikon, its new desktop designed to challenge Bloomberg LP's terminals for primacy on the desks of traders.

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