AIG makes late push toward mediocrity

January 26, 2016

The mega-insurer unveiled plans to sell businesses, slash costs and return $25 bln to shareholders. That’d be a lot for most companies under siege from an activist like Carl Icahn. It’ll only get AIG to a subpar return on equity of 9 pct. This breakup story has further to go.

How Symantec let bad math lead to a shaky deal

January 21, 2016

Carlyle’s buyout of the software company’s Veritas unit was never actually worth the $8 bln headline figure. Excessive leverage was dressed up to make it look workable. Even the new 8 pct price cut is misleading. Boards and investors can help themselves by getting M&A sums right.

Managerial competence makes the difference in 2016

January 5, 2016

Markets are getting choppier. Capital is becoming more expensive in the world’s largest economy. Globalization is taking big knocks. Economic growth is middling. Good managers will distinguish winners from losers as much as valuable assets do from lousy liabilities.

Global corporate profit is under serious threat

December 17, 2015

U.S. companies are earning close to the most in five decades as measured against national income. It’s a worldwide trend, with bottom lines far larger as a share of GDP than in 1980. Competition, disruption and tax policy – along with weaker growth – are set to change all that.

Indian sale makes Bain Capital rare buyout hero

November 27, 2015

The U.S. firm has sold its remaining $116 mln stake in Hero MotoCorp four years after investing in the world’s largest motorbike maker. In rupee terms, Bain doubled its money in four years. As private equity pours into India, it’s a reminder that getting money out remains harder.

Shale drillers can do little more with any less

November 5, 2015

Apache joined a handful of U.S. companies that have raised production forecasts in recent days, despite sharp reductions in investment. Improved efficiency and lower costs are keeping volumes buoyant. Another big drop in the price of oil, however, would test their resolve.

Merger Monday has a scary Halloween afterglow

November 2, 2015

At least six corporate buyers unmasked acquisitions of $1 bln or more to sustain the freakish pace of M&A. Some of them, including Visa’s, are tricky, while others like Shire’s treat sellers to rich prices. The zombie-like deal march is causing investors to take fright.

Ad kickback scrutiny could embarrass agencies

October 22, 2015

The trade group for brands like P&G and McDonald’s – responsible for $250 bln a year in media spending – has hired investigators to review ad agency practices, including claims that rebates aren’t passed on to clients. The Mad Men are missing the chance to shape their own story.

Clogged IPO exit ramp boxes in buyout barons

October 15, 2015

Blackstone and peers have had a good run taking heavily indebted companies public again. Offerings for Albertsons and Neiman Marcus have been delayed. First Data struggled. Petco and Univision may, too. It bodes poorly for private equity when selling becomes as tough as buying.

Wells and JPMorgan expose BofA’s $7 bln challenge

October 14, 2015

Brian Moynihan’s bank needs to earn that much in extra annual profit for a 10 pct return on equity. Cost cuts to match Wells-type efficiency wouldn’t quite do it. And Jamie Dimon’s outfit has fair returns even on falling revenue. Only a rate hike might get BofA over the line.