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Feb 27, 2013
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U.S. buyout barons have new tax-dodge rivals: MLPs

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By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

U.S. buyout barons have new tax-dodge rivals: master limited partnerships. The low tax rates on private equity bosses’ so-called carried interests save them $1.3 billion a year, according to the U.S Treasury, an advantage critics want wiped out. But new data show investors in energy partnerships are now costing Uncle Sam a similar amount thanks to an outdated Internal Revenue Service perk from the 1980s. Both loopholes should be closed.

Feb 19, 2013
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Offices Depot and Max lucky to have each other

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By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Office Depot and OfficeMax are lucky to have each other. Uniting the U.S. purveyors of pens, paper clips and printer toner is about as obvious as it gets in M&A. The potential synergies could be worth more than the market value of the two companies combined. As the Internet ravishes retail, at least this corner can cling to life by merger.

Feb 19, 2013

Breakingviews-Offices Depot and Max lucky to have each other

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.)

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Office Depot
(ODP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and OfficeMax (OMX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) are lucky to have each other.
Uniting the U.S. purveyors of pens, paper clips and printer
toner is about as obvious as it gets in M&A. The potential
synergies could be worth more than the market value of the two
companies combined. As the Internet ravishes retail, at least
this corner can cling to life by merger.

Feb 15, 2013

US airlines need to fly abroad for better returns

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters Breakingviews) – U.S. airlines need to fly abroad for better returns. The $11 billion union of US Airways and AMR should boost the industry’s profitability. But earnings won’t be able to pick up more altitude until America’s airlines team up with overseas rivals. Some such deals could nearly double margins. But it requires Congress to lift curbs on foreign ownership.

Right now Wall Street analysts reckon America’s two largest airlines are winging their way to solid profits. The consensus is that Delta (DAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will land $2.2 billion this year, a 5.8 percent net margin, while United Continental (UAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is on course for $1.5 billion, or a 3.8 percent margin. That would be pretty robust, but investors are more skeptical – Delta’s stock trades at just over five times and United’s just under seven times those estimates. And that’s after a 60 percent surge for Delta over the past six months and a 45 percent rally for United.

Feb 5, 2013
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Apple and Exxon may not be so different, after all

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By Christopher Swann and Robert Cyran
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Apple and Exxon Mobil may not be so different, after all. The two seemingly disparate companies share more than nearly identical U.S. market-leading values of about $400 billion. Both are threatened by shrinking margins and the struggle to replace their precious wares. Exxon in various iterations has survived four times longer than Apple, but is just as vulnerable.

Feb 1, 2013
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2012 may be as good as it gets for Exxon

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By Christopher Swann

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

2012 may be as good as it gets for Exxon Mobil. America’s largest oil company pumped out a near-record profit and its best earnings per share ever. But Exxon, like Chevron, is spending huge sums – almost $40 billion last year – to find and extract reserves. Holding output steady is tough enough. Unless oil prices jump, Exxon may have peaked.

Jan 29, 2013
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Activist exposes Hess as latest governance villain

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By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

An activist investor has exposed Hess as the latest governance villain in the energy patch. Hedge fund Elliott Associates reckons the U.S. oil company could be worth more than double its current $20 billion-plus value. But as at other energy groups, like Chesapeake Energy and SandRidge Energy, a too-cozy board has brought waste and strategic blunders.

Jan 17, 2013

Boeing flagship glitches look like mere turbulence

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – The grounding of two Japanese airlines’ Dreamliner fleets is a warning. Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research) needs to fix the glitches to ensure a smooth future for the much ballyhooed and delayed 787. But the problems aren’t looking any bigger than the Airbus (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) A380′s teething troubles. Investors’ mild reaction – a 4 percent drop in the stock, knocking market value down by about $2 billion – seems right.

Boeing’s new flagship, which ran years behind schedule and far over budget in development, was intended to corner the global point-to-point market – delivering passengers to their final destination rather than just flying them between major hubs like New York or London. So far Boeing has orders for slightly fewer than 900 aircraft and needs to sell at least 1,100 to start making a profit on the Dreamliner, according to Morningstar.

Jan 7, 2013
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Oil barons and tech hipsters share a dark side

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By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Oil barons and technology hipsters seem very different. But they share a dark side. The chief executive of U.S. explorer SandRidge Energy and some of his peers jet around at shareholders’ expense, while at Facebook and Google founder-bosses are insulated from owners by super-voting rights. Clubby boards also feature in both sectors.

Dec 28, 2012
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Coal’s ascendancy to leave ailing U.S. miners in pit

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By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Coal’s ascendancy looks set to leave already ailing U.S. miners stuck in a pit. Within five years, the black rock is likely to replace oil as the world’s top energy source, according to the International Energy Agency. That should be good news for America’s miners, which are sitting on 28 percent of the planet’s coal. But they’re ill placed to do well from the boom.

    • About Christopher

      "I am a columnist at Thomson Reuters focusing on the energy industry and hedge funds. Prior to this I worked at Bloomberg and the Financial Times."
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