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BATTAAN SLOT MARCH

Apollo and Texas Pacific face excruciating regulatory approvals in their $15.5bn buyout bid for Harrah's.

Some people will bet on just about anything, so it wouldn't be surprising if there was a book out there for how long it will take Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group to close their $15.5 billion (€12.4 billion) Harrah's Entertainment deal.

Some gaming-industry analysts predict a 24-month regulatory review, which would put Las Vegas-based Harrah's in the ownership of the private equity group in late 2008. This would be consistent with longtime casino investor Tom Barrack's description of the gaming license process as being akin to the “Battaan Death March”.

Barrack, the founder of Los Angeles-based private equity real estate firm Colony Capital, has been through this regulatory march on many occasions, but Apollo and Texas Pacific have not. The firms, and by extension the principals of the firms, need to receive Nevada licensing approval even before the nine other US states in which Harrah's operates begin their own approval process.

While gaming license processes have been eased slightly in the UK and Europe, Harrah's global expansion is no sure bet. The company recently failed in a bid to operate a casino in Singapore.

But the opportunity to expand the Harrah's franchise is attainable and may be well worth the effort. Asian gambling mecca Macau has overhauled its former monopolistic licensing regime in favour of a more open system. US gaming corporations Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts recently won gaming licenses from the Chinese territory. Given China's population as well as the culture's historic interest in gambling, many expect Macau to quickly replace Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world.

Harrah's is one of the largest casino operators in the world and owns the Caesars Palace and Bally's brands. In addition to gambling, casinos have generally become a destination for shopping, dining and all forms of tourist spending.

Apollo and Texas Pacific are not alone in their eagerness to have a marker in the gambling business. Colony Capital as well as Goldman Sachs, Providence Equity Partners and Oaktree Capital Management have all recently agreed to acquire gaming assets. Limited partners who lose at tables in Vegas or Macau can at least console themselves with the knowledge that they may be contributing to a portfolio company's bottom line.

PROVIDENCE, CARLYLE TEAM FOR SOFTWARE BUY
The private equity firm The Carlyle Group and the private investment firm Providence Equity Partners have bought Open Solutions, a global supplier of software to financial institutions, for $1.3 billion (€1.0 billion). The deal includes the assumption of Open Solutions common stock for $38 per share of common stock, a press statement said. Open Solutions, based in Glastonbury, Connecticut provides processing systems and online services software to banks and credit unions. It has more than 4,800 clients globally. Forbes magazine named it one of the fastest growing technology companies in February of 2006.

FIRST RESERVE COMMITS $1.8BN TO POWER PROJECT
First Reserve, a US-based private equity firm focused on the energy sector, and GenPower, which develops electrical generation plants in the US, are joining forces to pursue investment opportunities in power generation facilities globally. The new company, GenPower Holdings, is investing $1.8 billion in Longview coal project in Maidsville, West Virginia, making it one of the largest investments in that state, according to a statement. To combat the affects of acid mine drainage water, GenPower has established a nonprofit business called AMD Reclamation.

TENASKA IN $1.6BN POWER PLANT PURCHASE
Tenaska Capital Management has spent $1.6 billion to acquire six power plants from publicly traded Constellation Energy. The transaction involves 3,145 megawatts across six natural gas-generation plants, including two in Illinois, two in Virginia, one in California and one in Texas. Tenaska raised $838 million in a debut private equity fund last year. The firm is affiliated with Nebraska-based Tenaska Energy. Formed in 2003, the firm bought a 315-megawatt plant in Virginia for $38 million and a 308-megawatt power peaking facility in Chicago for $89 million last year.

APOLLO IN $1.25BN JACUZZI BUYOUT
Apollo Management acquired Jacuzzi Brands, manufacturer of bath products like hot tubs and showers, off the New York Stock Exchange in a transaction valued at $1.25 billion, including the assumption of $257 million in debt, last month. Shareholders will receive $12.50 per share in this deal. Upon completion of this deal, Apollo will sell Jacuzzi's water management business to Rexnord, maker of power transmission, aerospace and motion technology products. Rexnord is an Apollo portfolio company.

RIPPLEWOOD, OAK HILL IN $3.4BN RENTAL DEAL
The two private equity firms have agreed to buy a stake in RSC Equipment Rental, the second-largest construction equipment rental company in the US. The investment in the unit, RSC Equipment Rental, is valued at approximately $3.4 billion (€2.7 billion). The firms may invest an additional $400 million before 2008 based on the performance of the company.

Ripplewood, based in New York, and Oak Hill, based in Stamford, Connecticut, will be equal partners in the deal.

SPG TO MAKE SECOND ACQUISITION
New York-based private equity firm SPG Partners acquired majority ownership of Excel Mining Systems, a manufacturer of roof support products for underground coal mines based in Bowerston, Ohio, in September. Paul Chellgren, an operating partner at SPG who has more than 30 years of experience working in the US coal industry, will become Excel's non-executive chairman, SPG said. Bruce Cassidy, Excel's president and CEO, founded the Excel in 1991. It has six manufacturing sites located in Ohio, Virginia, Illinois and Utah. This is the second deal for SPG Partners, which was created last year.