Summary: In the largest private equity buyout ever, Blackstone Group will purchase Sam Zell's Equity Office Properties Trust for about $20 billion. Equity Office shareholders are to receive $48.50 a share - a 8.5% premium over Friday's closing price. With demand for U.S. commercial real estate firm and underpriced leases up for renewal, Blackstone plans to add Equity Office to the ten other publicly traded real estate companies it has acquired in the past two years to extract further value from the sector. Blackstone in July raised a $15.6 billion fund, and is adding another $5 billion to finance the Equity Office deal. Equity Office shares have jumped 47% in 2006. Private equity firms have announced $600 billion of acquisitions so far this calendar year, up from $241 billion in 2005.
Related links: EOP/Blackstone press release • Media coverage: Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Reuters
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: • Equity Office (EOP), Reckson Associates (RA) ETFs: iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate (IYR), Vanguard SF REIT (VNQ), iShares Cohen & Steers Realty Majors (ICF), PowerShares Listed Private Equity Portfolio (PSP)
TECHNOLOGY AND INTERNET
Summary: President Bush approved the $11.8 billion sale of Lucent Technologies, the leading U.S. producer of telephone equipment, to Paris-based Alcatel following a rigorous 75-day security review. The merger, which will form the largest supplier of devices for mobile phone networks, is expected to overtake rival Ericsson, and will entail trimming 9,000 jobs and cutting $1.7 billion in costs in three years. Lucent's shares have declined 15% since the merger was announced in April, but rose a penny to $2.62 when the deal was approved, while Alcatel dropped 7 cents to 10.51 euros in Paris. The detailed review was designed to address concerns about Lucent's classified work for the U.S. government, and it was agreed that Lucent will have a separate company run by Americans to deal with sensitive U.S. contracts. However, Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter expressed his "grave concerns" about the merger in April and commented that the recent meeting did not not give his committee sufficient details. The deal will be finalized on November 30.
Related links: Media coverage: Reuters . Commentary: Alcatel and Lucent Shares Rise Despite Weak Earnings • Ciena CFO: Alcatel-Lucent Merger "A Good Thing • Patricia Russo on Taking the Lucent-Alcatel Helm. Conference call transcripts: Alcatel / Lucent Technologies Inc. Merger Announcement Conference Call Transcript • Lucent Technologies 4Q2006• Alcatel 3Q2006
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Lucent (LU), Alcatel (ALA) • Competitors : Ericsson (ERIC), Cisco (CSCO), Nortel (NT) • ETFs: Broadband HOLDRS (BDH)
Red Hat to Move to NYSE [TheStreet.com]
Summary: Top Linux distributor Red Hat, Inc. announced it has filed for a listing with the NYSE and will start trading on the exchange as early as December 12. The reason for the change, according to CFO Charlie Peters, is simple: "We believe that listing on the NYSE will increase Red Hat's visibility among investors, reduce trading volatility and offer more efficient pricing" versus the tech-heavy Nasdaq. The company, currently near 52-week lows due to a series of industry challenges from competitor Oracle and a recent Microsoft-Novell alliance will trade under the symbol RHT.
Related links: Press Release. Media coverage: WSJ. Commentary: Red Hat Stock Climbing Back • Red Hat: Unlikely to Recover From ORCL/MSFT One-Two Punch -- Barron's • Oracle's Linux Announcment: A Load of Bull? • Panic Exit From Red Hat Shares - Overdone? • In Recognition of New "Mixed" Software Environment, Microsoft To Work With Novell's Linux. Conference call transcripts: Red Hat F2Q07 (Qtr End 8/31/06) Earnings Call Transcript (SeekingAlpha).
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Red Hat (RHAT) • Competitors: Oracle (ORCL), Novell (NOVL), Microsoft (MSFT), Sun Microsystems (SUNW) • ETFs: Software HOLDRs (SWH).
176 Newspapers to Form a Partnership With Yahoo [New York Times]
Summary: A 7-member newspaper consortium representing 176 dailies across the U.S. announced a broad partnership with Yahoo to share content, ads and technology. The first phase of the alliance will bring the papers' employment classifieds onto Yahoo's HotJobs, which will in turn provide a platform for career listings on the papers' own sites. The deal positions Yahoo, struggling recently to regain investor confidence in its core content and advertising markets, alongside Google as a willing partner with traditional media companies. The newspaper consortium includes: MediaNews Group, Hearst, Belo, E. W. Scripps, the Journal Register Company, Lee Enterprises and Cox Enterprises. Newspaper execs see the deal as an ambitious effort to preserve their franchises amidst the growing threat of the Internet to their readership base and advertising revenue.
Related links: Denver Post: Roots of Yahoo-newspapers deal go back 18 months, WSJ coverage, Associated Press. Commentary: Yahoo's 'Peanut Butter Memo' Urges Change • Hedge Funds Now Circling Yahoo? • Pair Trade: Short Yahoo U.S., Long Yahoo Japan • Conference call transcript: Yahoo! Q3 2006 Earnings Call
Potentially impacted stocks: Yahoo (YHOO), Belo Corp. (BLC), E.W. Scripps (SSP), Lee Enterprises (LEE), Monster Worldwide Inc. (MNST)
AT&T Unlikely to Budge With FCC on Merger Deal [Wall Street Journal]
Summary: AT&T expects FCC approval of its $80 billion BellSouth takeover by the end of the year without further concessions, according to AT&T senior vice president Chris Rooney. Two Democratic FCC commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, refuse to vote in favor of the deal, which has left the commission in a deadlock. But with Senate confirmation of Kevin Martin as FCC chairman, it's expected that Martin will unrecuse Commissioner Robert McDowell, obliging him to vote -- and in all likelihood approve the takeover. Negotiations between AT&T, Copps and Adelstein are expected to resume in the next two weeks.
Related links: Epoch Times: AT&T-BellSouth Merger Hits a Wall . Commentary: Citi: Buy AT&T and Sell Verizon • Apple's iPhone Would Undermine Carriers' Handset Domination . Conference call transcripts: AT&T Q3 2006 Earnings Call Transcript .
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: AT&T (T), BellSouth (BLS) • ETFs: iShares DJ Telecom (IYZ), ML Telecom HOLDR (TTH)
Summary: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co [KKR] will pay US$2.5b (A$3.1b) to acquire half the assets of Australian media company Seven Network Limited, including its magazine unit and Channel Seven, the nation's second largest TV network. A Seven Network press release said the assets are valued at A$4b and include its online assets -- notably a JV with Yahoo!. Morgan Stanley, Mizuho, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are underwriting the financing. US$6.7b in deals have been announced in the past five weeks since the Australian government began allowing foreign investors to take controlling stakes in Australian media. Overall, Australia has seen buyouts surge to US$27.3b this year, after only $1.4b last year, according to Bloomberg research.
Related links: Seven Network Ltd: KKR JV press release [pdf]. Media coverage: Financial Times. Commentary: Capturing Australia via ETF, ADR or CEF.
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: News Corp (NWS), Seven Network Limited (ASX: SEV) • ETF: PowerShares Listed Private Equity Portfolio (PSP)
ENERGY AND MATERIALS
Summary: Tata Steel will have to raise its $8 billion bid for Corus Group Plc. after Brazil's Cia. Siderurgica Nacional SA, or CSN, made an offer of 475 pence a share, 4.4 percent higher than Tata's 455 pence. Both companies are vying for London-based Corus, the largest steel producer in the U.K, to build more European mills, and to increase bargaining power. Shares of the second-largest Indian steelmaker fell 5.3 percent last week, and Tata has been the worst performer on India's Sensitive index since August. The company will have to borrow $5.6 billion to increase its offer, raising concern that the merger will have an adverse effect on the company's finances. However, A.S. Firoz, chief economist at India's steel ministry, believes that Tata has the advantage due to India's growth and proximity to other Asian markets.
Related links: Media coverage: MarketWatch
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Corus Group Plc. (CSE), Companhia Siderurgica Nacional S.A. (SID) • ETFs: SPDR Metals and Mining ETF (XME)
HEARD ON THE STREET: New Seeds May Sow Stock Gains for Syngenta [Wall Street Journal]
Summary: Upstart agri-chemical company Syngenta is riding the ethanol tide and looking to take on industry giant Monsanto. Analysts are excited about this Swiss company that specializes in crop production improvement through genetically modified seed development and chemical crop protection businesses. Syngenta is the product of the 2000 Novartis/ AstraZeneca merger. Though ethanol prices have fallen this year due to rising supplies, the gasoline price dip and Brazilian imports of sugar cane-based product, Syngenta is counting on new product launches for 2008, when ethanol prices are still uncertain. Syngenta shares are up 38% for the year; they closed at $34.05, down 1.1% on Friday. The company expects to increase margins for its seeds business to 15% by 2010, from 8.2% in 2005. Syngenta had earnings growth of 27% last year and plans to enlarge its market share in crop protection by .5% a year.
Related links: Read more Long Ideas.
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Syngenta (SYT), Monsanto (MON) • Competitor: BASF (BF), E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DD)
Summary: In the world's biggest-ever mining takeover, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. agreed to buy Phelps Dodge Corp. for $25.9 billion in cash and stock. PD shareholders will get cash and shares totalling $126.46 a share, a 33% premium on Friday's close. Freeport will become the world's biggest publicly traded copper producer, overtaking BHP Billiton Limited. Copper prices have almost tripled since 2002 on increased demand from China; the combined company plans to increase output by 25% over the next three years. Freeport shares trade at 8.4x earnings and the company has a market cap of $11.3b, while PD trades at 5.8x earnings with a cap of $18.2b. Phelps Dodge tried to takeover Canadian nickel miner Inco in September, but dropped its bid when shareholders approved a competing bid from Vale, the world's largest iron-ore producer. The combined company would have earnings of $7.9b and cash flows of $6.5b for 2006, and a debt of $17.6b. Freeport CEO Richard C. Adkerson said shareholders would benefit from "significant cash-flow accretion, lower cost of capital, and improved geographic and asset diversification." It remains to be seen whether anyone tries to take out PD, the most likely candidate being Grupo Mexico because of the close proximity of its holdings to PD's.
Related links: Media coverage: WSJ. Commentary: How To Play Phelps Dodge's Earnings Report • Atticus Hedge Fund Seeking Suitors for Phelps Dodge • Phelps Dodge Withdraws Bid for Inco, Opening Door for RIO • Jim Cramer's take on PD and FCX
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Phelps Dodge Corp. (PD), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.(FCX), BHP Billiton Limited (BHP), Inco Ltd. (N), Cabot Corp. (CBT), Southern Copper Corp. (PCU), Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM), Rio Tinto plc (RTP) • ETFs: SPDR Metals and Mining ETF (XME), Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)
Bank of America Targets Ultrarich In U.S. Trust Deal [Wall Street Journal]
Summary: In a move it hopes will allow it to compete with other private, 'ultra-rich' banks, Bank of America is expected to announce today that it has purchased U.S. Trust from Charles Schwab for $3.3 billion. J.P. Morgan currently holds the spot for top private bank with $230 billion under management followed by Citibank's Private Bank, which has $220 billion under management. U.S. Trust is a distant 3rd with $89 billion under management; still, it gives Bank of America an in to a segment of the banking sector to which it had been previously underexposed. The deal is also expected to help cash-strapped discount broker Charles Schwab, whose operations have come under increasing competition.
Related links: Media coverage: Forbes . Commentary: Bank of America Accelerates Free Trading: Time to Short Ameritrade, E-Trade and Charles Schwab? • Low-Beta Portfolio Strategies: Devising A Low Risk Game Plan For the Current Market • Bank of America: Good, Bad and Ugly on Earnings • Bank of America's Free Stock Trading: How "Free" Is It?.
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citibank (C), Charles Schwab (SCHW) • Competitors: TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (AMTD), E*TRADE Financial Corporation (ET) • ETFs: First Tr Morningstar Div Leade (FDL), streetTRACKS KBW Bank (KBE), Regional Bank HOLDRS (RKH), Vanguard Financials (VFH).
Summary: Nasdaq made a second bid for the London Stock Exchange, at 1,243 pence/share cash (£2.7b, or $5.1b total) for the remainder of the 75% stake it does not control. This past March, Nasdaq's £2.4b bid was rejected by LSE's CEO. Nasdaq executives are trying to meet with LSE's chairman to obtain a recommendation for their offer. Nasdaq faces U.K. takeover regulations that expire in May '07, meaning the least it can bid is the 1,243 pence/share. In its bid statement, Nasdaq touted synergies, positioning for further consolidation, and the benefits of a cross-border equity market platform featuring dual-listing ability as the world's largest exchange by capitalization and trading volume. Market participants in London are speculating the bid will be rejected since LSE traded above 1,300 pence last week, and thus, would require a higher bid to persuade the board and please shareholders. Intra-day, LSE is up 6% at 1,291 pence.
Related links: Media coverage: Nasdaq press releases: Acquisition of LSE shares and Final offer for LSE [pdf], Forbes-London AFX and Reuters. Commentary: Nymex's IPO: $34 Million Left on the Table? -- Exchanges' P/E Ratios • Deutsche Börse Drops Euronext Takeover Bid, Clearing Way for NYSE • U.S. Exchanges Continue To Trim Expenses Through M&A • Jasdaq, Nasdaq Tie-up Planned.
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Nasdaq (NDAQ), London Stock Exchange (LSE:LN) • Competitors: NYSE Group (NYX), Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), InterContinental Exchange (ICE), Int'l Securities Exchange Hldgs (ISE), NYMEX Holdings (NMX) • ETFs: iShares Dow Jones US Broker-Dealers (IAI), streetTRACKS KBW Capital Markets (KCE)
Allergan, Mentor Buoyed by FDA Implant OK [TheStreet.com]
Summary: Silicone breast implant manufacturers Allergan and Mentor wasted no time heralding the FDA's Thursday approval of silicone breast implants. The "breast aesthetic" product had been under a production moratorium since 1992 due to safety concerns. The industry predicts a surge in demand for the implants, despite FDA warnings that "a woman will likely need additional surgeries on her breast at least once over her lifetime." Implants account for $54.1 million, or 7% of Allergan's total revenue in 3Q06. For Mentor, implants accounted for $58.2 million, or 87% of sales in 2Q06. Analysts forecast that the approval will have a greater impact on Mentor, it being smaller and less diversified than Allergan. Mentor shares reached $47.58 in regular trading, up $1.47, or 3.2%. They rose $5.42, or 11.4% in after-hours trading. Allergan shares closed at $112.50, climbing $1.76, or 1.6%. In after-hours trading, they increased $4.50, or 4%.
Related links: Press Releases: Mentor, Allergan. Media coverage: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg. Commentary: What the Botox Boom Means for Allergan • Who Gains, Who Loses From the Bausch & Lomb Recall? .
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Allergan (AGN), Mentor (MNT) • Competitors: Bausch & Lomb (BOL), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) • ETFs: iShares Dow Jones US Pharmaceuticals (IHE), iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP), iShares Russell Midcap Index (IWR).
Summary: Mizuho Financial Group's first-half profit increased 16% to ¥392.3b ($3.3b), on increased revenues of 9.5% to ¥1.86 trillion. It credited growth in service fees and trading income. Its Q2 net income however, fell by 2% y-o-y to ¥161.5b (as calculated by Bloomberg; Mizuho doesn't report quarterly results). Mizuho said it is maintaining its full-year forecast for net income at ¥720b. Mizuho began trading on the NYSE less than two weeks ago. As part of its growth strategy, Mizuho is focusing more on overseas expansion. Year-to-date, Mizuho's ordinary shares are down 12%, after gaining 81% last year, as Japanese bank stocks have been under pressure due to slowing lending growth in all of Japan after the first lending increase reported earlier this year, in nearly 10 years. Mizuho shareholders will be rewarded as planned, as Mizuho said its interim dividend will increase by 75% to ¥7,000/share.
Related links: Mizuho: Interim FY06 Financial Statements and Dividend Revision [pdf]. Media coverage: Forbes-XFN newswire and IHT-AP (includes Mitsubishi UFJ earnings). Commentary: Mizuho's Quiet NYSE Debut; Japan's Mega Banks' Stocks Slump • Mizuho Financial Group ADRs Begin Trading on NYSE • BoJ Keeps Target Interest Rate at 0.25%.
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Mizuho Financial Group (MFG), Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU) • ETFs: iShares MSCI Japan Index (EWJ), iShares S&P/Topix 150 (ITF)
ACTIONABLE BARRON'S CALLS
- Barron's cover story looks at NYSE (NYX) and its electronic initiative. Investors are positive about its planned Euronext merger, think CEO John Thain is one-step ahead of the crowd, and are convinced the current "hybrid" trading experiment is only a stepping-stone on the way to fully automated trading that they hope will bring NYSE volumes closer to rival Nasdaq (NDAQ). Specialist firms such as LaBranche & Co. Inc. (LAB) and Van Der Moolen Holding NV (VDM) that thrived by "earning the spread" on the floor are barely breaking even now, and must find their niche in algo trade-matching if they hope to survive, or thrive like rival Knight Capital Group Inc. (NITE) has since automating. Commenting on the stock's and exchanges' hyper-rich valuations, Barron's says, "With the stock where it is, a lot needs to break right."
- Friday's Nymex (NMX) debut saw shares surge to $133 from their $59 IPO price. At that level, they're at 72x earnings, even richer than exchange giant Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings (CME) at 46x and NYSE (NYX) at 57x. Bulls are betting that with the pressure of free-market investors, NMX can grow bigger and leaner. Contrasting this IPO with the CME's in 2002 at $35/share (it now trades at $535), Barron's marvels at how times have changed: "Wall Street is assigning an enormous valuation to Nymex as it's just out of the gate. The Internet bubble ended badly, suggesting investors ought to be cautious given the current exchange mania."
- A Morgan Stanley beverage analyst says Coca-Cola Co. (KO) may soon buy out its #1 U.S. bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (CCE), allowing it to develop pricing and marketing strategies unfettered. Coke has shown no interest thus far in a merger. Barron's surmises: "A deal could bring CCE $27 a share (current price $20)... while helping Coca-Cola to carry out a cohesive growth strategy."
- After a two-year stretch of recalls, sales of implantable defibrillators [ICDs] have slumped. But recent research that has proved more capable of finding ICD candidates than exceptions, and last month's findings that drug-eluting stents do not increase heart-attack risk, may have doctors pushing them again. Medtronic Inc. (MDT) reports earnings today, and its results will impact St. Jude Medical Inc. (STJ) and Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) -- if ICD sales show any strength, "a thrill would run through its shares and those of its rivals." After that, all eyes will be on the Dec. 7 FDA convened meetings.
- Shares of E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DD) have done little in the 2000s. Despite the lack of any market-moving news, Barron's sees shares climbing 15-20% in the coming year on the strength of its revamped results-conscious R&D, the emerging chemistry/biology mix that finds biological enhancements to chemical solutions, and its growing strength in genetic modification.
- MGIC Investment Corp. (MTG) shares may look cheap at 8.5x earnings ($61.50), but the deflating housing bubble is bound to make its mark on the mortgage insurer, especially considering its escalating exposure to 'liar loans' and collateral-free loans. "With home prices up nearly 60% in five years, and speculative construction widespread, the current downturn in the U.S. housing market promises to be no ordinary correction, least of all one that "Magic," with its insured loan portfolio of $173.4 billion, will escape unscathed."
- Alan Newman of CrossCurrents watches ETFs to take the insider pulse of various sectors. He thinks he's spotted an insider shift in the financial sector. In mid-October he calculated 24 iShares Dow Jones US Financial ETF (IYF) shares sold by insiders for every share bought; now total shares bought has tripled, but total shares sold is up 12x. If insiders are selling financial stocks in quantity, he advises, don't be buying them.
- Despite questioning the follow-through potential of the recent runup in consumer stocks which make up Consumer Discretionary SPDR ETF (XLY), Barron's likes media stocks and "traditional media" in particular, citing recent Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU) and Reader's Digest Association Inc. (RDA) acquisitions as proof that not everyone has jumped off the bandwagon.
- Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) spinoff Idearc Inc. (IAR), printer of Yellow Pages, begins trading today. While spun-off underperforming segments may not often inspire investors, Barron's likes IAR's domination of local listings and LBO firms' aggressive pursuit of directory units. IAR could become a buyout target, boosting its $26.60 shares to $33 or even $39.
Seeking Alpha is not affiliated with Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg, TheStreet.com, or Barron's.
U.S. Markets: The Debt-Rich '00s?
Housing: Bursting the Housing Bubble
Long Idea: The GPS Era Has Arrived: Consider Investing in Trimble Navigation
Short Idea: Pair Trade: Short Yahoo U.S., Long Yahoo Japan
Internet: The Winds of Change at Yahoo!
Chip Stocks: More Proof Semis Headed in Right Direction: Equipment Orders, Sales Continue Slowdown
Telecom: Verizon's Idearc Spinoff: It May Quickly Become a Value Stock
Hardware: H-P Inventories Increase: No Major Concern But Certainly Nothing to Brag About
Software: Intuit Shares Continue To Follow Pre-determined Seasonal Patterns
Healthcare: Ready For HQL Investment
Retail: Home Depot's Dividend Increase: Not What Bob Nardelli Wants You To Believe
Consumer Electronics: iSuppli's Teardown of the PS3: Largest Loss Per Unit in History
Small-Caps: Medicure Initiates Phase 3 Enrollment
Gold: Crystallex, Kimber Resources, AfriOre: Mining Stocks on the Move
Financial: Financial Media Pay Attention: Stock Spam Works
IPO Analysis: Did Nymex's IPO Issuers Leave $34 Million on the Table?
Asia: Cognizant's Income Statement Is As Good As They Get
ETFs: Learning From The Harvard & Yale Endowments
Sound Money Tips: Weekend Round-Up: From Computer Support Bills to Cheaper Pills
Jim Cramer: Latest stock picks
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