Unstructured Finance

The waiters, the iPhone, the scalper and the Maltese

June 30, 2007

That’s a handy way to describe the zone around the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. As you can see from the photos, folks were getting pretty ragged by Friday afternoon.

Online eyeliner

June 29, 2007

lipstick.jpgOnline sales of beauty products makes up four percent of sales in the more than $42 billion business  — and are growing fast, according to a consumer research report.
One in ten women said they hit the Web for their skin care, makeup and perfume needs, according to a report titled “Emerging Channels: Beauty Care Products Over the Internet” by retail research firm NPD Group. More than 15,00 women were survey.
Forty three percent of them said they shopped more online in 2006 than in 2005.
Why? Because it sure beats standing in lines at stores.
More than 74 percent of these women, aged between 18 and 64, said it saved time while about 70 percent thought “its easier/quicker to shop online.”
That said, only their trusted brands enjoy good online sales, said NPD senior beauty analyst Karen Grant.
“We find that women are less accepting of buying new brands over the Internet, but they are spending their money on brands they know and trust,” Grant said.
That could spell good news for beauty companies like Estee Lauder  and Elizabeth Arden, which have said they felt a continuing pinch in U.S. sales following the Macy’s/May Department stores mergers.
In the past quarter, Estee said positive internet sales were partly responsible for offsetting weak U.S. sales.
Fifteen percent of women in the $75,000 and over range shopped beauty online, compared to 10 percent in the $35,000 to $44,000 category and 7 percent in households that make less than $35,000.
And “baby boomer” women — those aged between 45 and 64 — shop the most online, followed by those who are in the 18 to 34 age range, according to the survey.

Audio – Might Chinese wearing Gucci sunglasses buy Toll Brothers houses?

June 29, 2007

sunglasses.jpgToll Brothers Chief Executive Robert Toll is seeing a link between Chinese people wearing Gucci sunglasses and a business opportunity. And that’s one reason he is about to send a team to scout out possible homebuilding joint ventures in China’s first and second-tier cities, Toll said at the Reuters Global Real Estate summit.

Real Estate M&A Going From Hot to Not

June 29, 2007

RealEstate07.jpgThe Reuters Real Estate Summit held in New York this week had a clear message for property dealmakers: If you’re waiting for the M&A cycle to kick into high gear, it could be a while. In fact, it’s more likely the cycle is headed for a dry spell, they said.

Financial deals boost record M&A

June 29, 2007

First-half mergers & acquisitions hit another record breaking through the $1 trillion mark, thanks largely to deals for financial companies, according to preliminary numbers from Dealogic.

iPhone launch: a tale of two stores

June 29, 2007

Here’s a tip — if you only want one iPhone, and don’t care to wrestle with a giant blue-nosed mole (on the far right), head to an AT&T store.

Titans mull private equity boom

June 28, 2007


   Has the private equity boom peaked? That was the hot topic at a Wall Street Journal conference on Wednesday, which hosted financial industry titans such as Henry Paulson, Lloyd Blankfein and Carl Icahn.
    According to billionaire financier Icahn (left), the answer is yes, as shareholders are balking at selling companies too cheap.
    “They’ve had a walk in the park for years, but now shareholders are waking up to the fact that we’re not going to sell it to you so cheap,” Icahn said. “And interest rates could start creeping up.”
    Blankfein, who runs Goldman Sachs, the top advisor to buyout firms, had a different opinion. He thinks the leveraged buyout trend is not “going out of style.” 
    Wobbles are being seen in financing of some leveraged buyouts. Ahold’s U.S. Foodservce postponed the financial backing of $7.1 billion LBO due to weak market conditions, sources told Reuters Loan Pricing Corp on Tuesday.     
    Meanwhile, the shares of Blackstone are off their IPO high amid tax concerns and worries the private equity boom may be off its peak. It finished its first day at $35.06 but closed on Thursday at $29.69.
    Other comments on private equity made at the conference::  
    Glenn Hutchins, co-founder and managing director of Silver Lake, said he didn’t foresee a blowup of the private equity industry although he expects the industry will see some unsuccessful deals. He added that he would not be worried until he saw underlying economic problems. 
    NYSE Euronext Chief Executive John Thain, when asked if he was concerned whether the private equity boom was becoming too heated, said the wider issue was the availability of capital that is allowing buyout firms to take companies private.
    “I don’t think it’s a question of the private equity boom. There is a tremendous amount of liquidity available so there’s a lot of leverage that’s available at very low cost. So I think the place to be concerned is — what takes some of the steam out of the availability of liquidity? That’s much more the issue than the private equity … Liquidity is fueling private equity — but it’s really the excessive amount of leverage at very low cost.”
    Richard Breeden, CEO, Breeden Capital Management and former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: “What I do hope is that our market continues to be strong for private equity to generate value and also for larger shareholders in public companies to continue to create value. All markets and everyone benefits when new value is created.”

Scouring the sale circulars

June 28, 2007

Just because they shop at a store known for its convenient locations rather than low prices doesn’t mean cash-strapped consumers aren’t looking for a bargain.
Rite Aid said on Thursday that its customers sought out more general merchandise that was on sale in the latest quarter compared with a year earlier. The company did not change its promotions, customers just bought more items that were on sale.
That tidbit from Chairman, President and Chief Executive Mary Sammons during Rite Aid’s fiscal first-quarter conference call sparked interest. The first analyst to ask a question on the company’s conference call asked for more detail on the issue.

Like a bat out of hell — Bear exec’s cultural musings

June 28, 2007

Mr. LoafWhile hedge funds were collapsing around him, Rich Marin, head of the asset management unit at Bear Stearns Cos. stole a few moments to see a movie and blog about it, the New York Times reported on Thursday.