With more write-downs looming, analysts have been expecting big Wall Street firms to head back to the wealth pools of Asia and the Middle East. So the Observer’s weekend report that Merrill Lynch is talking again with these sovereign funds could help answer the remaining question: who’s next. Given it is New Year’s eve, Merrill would be a pretty good bet. Its announcement last Monday that it was selling up to $6.2 billion in shares to Singapore’s Temasek and asset manager Davis Selected Advisers came on Christmas eve. The Observer article says Chief Executive John Thain has kept all his lieutenants holed up through the holiday season.
Oil and gas exploration company Delta Petroleum said investor Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp will buy a 35 percent stake for $684 million. Delta said Tracinda will buy 36 million shares at $19 apiece, a premium of about 23 percent to the stock’s Friday closing price, and get the equivalent board representation.
Alitalia has been exploited by politicians for too long, a top Italian politician told daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. Economy minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa said he was defending the government’s decision last week to approve Alitalia pursuing talks with Air France-KLM.
Fresh from taking a $4.5 billion stake in diversified manufacturer Marmon, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has returned to its insurance stronghold with the purchase of ING‘s Dutch reinsurance unit for about 300 million euros ($435.2 million) and plans, unveiled in the Wall Street Journal, to set up a municipal bond insurer. The new bond insurer, Hathaway Assurance Corp is set to start operating today in New York state, and guarantee the bonds that cities, counties and states use to finance public works, the report said, quoting Buffett from an interview. The new fund poses a competitive challenge to bond insurers MBIA and Ambac, which have been struggling with the turmoil in the credit market.
Check Out U.S. consumer confidence climbing slightly in December despite the fact that many American consumers are becoming increasingly budget-conscious as they deal with higher food and fuel costs and the subprime mortgage crisis.
Retail investors have long had to suffer the jargon and weirdness of same-store-sales reports and non-standard earnings periods.
So when Amazon.com announced it had its best 2007 holiday season ever, it offered a glimpse a new kind metrics, numbers perhaps more relevant to the 21st century, Web-savvy consumer.
Amazon said in a news release its busiest day of its busiest season was Dec. 10 when 5.4 million items, or 62.5 items per second, were ordered. Last Dec. 11, their busiest day of the 2006 holiday rush, it had more than 4 million orders.
It didn’t offer any overall metrics for the holiday period, or offer anything in dollars and cents. But here are a few of the factoids Amazon did disclose:
* Amazon.com sold Nintendo Wii systems at approximately 17 per second when they were in stock.
* Amazon.com sold enough high-def DVD players to cover seven football fields.
* If you lined up all of the GPS units Amazon.com sold this holiday, they would make a trail from New York to Philadelphia; however, a new trail wouldn’t be necessary with the use of a GPS. (sic)
* Amazon.com sold enough auto wrenches to stretch all the way around the Daytona 500 track.
* Amazon.com sold enough Hannah Montana wigs to outfit the
entire audience at her December 20th show in Providence, RI.
Berkshire Hathaway says its $4.5 billion swoop for manufacturing and services group Marmon Holdings Inc. is the biggest non-insurance deal it has done. Privately held Marmon, with an international association of more than 125 businesses in sectors including wire and cable, transportation services and industrial products, looks like a sensible fit for Warren Buffett, whose stable of interests ranges from insurance to media to metals. One wonders what the next Berkshire Hathaway CEO will have to do to make a mark on the Megalopolis that Warren built.
Investor Christopher Davis, whose firm is buying $1.2 billion of stock in Merrill Lynch & Co Inc at a substantial discount, is known as a long-term value player who sometimes does years of research before making a portfolio decision. About 35 percent of Davis’ holdings are in financial services companies. Kenneth C. Feinberg, a co-portfolio manager for Davis, said his company contacted Merrill Lynch about two weeks ago, inquiring if it would be interested in getting an outside investor.
Banco Itau, Brazil’s second-biggest private sector bank, is set to spend around a billion dollars to buy Spanish group BBVA‘s private banking arm for Latin America, an unsourced newspaper reported. The deal could be officially announced in the coming days but it would have to be approved beforehand by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the newspaper said.
Christmas may have come a day early for Merrill Lynch. The mortgage-debt-wracked investment bank is selling up to $6.2 billion worth of discounted new stock to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and Davis Selected Advisers. The deal makes Merrill the latest in a growing number of Wall Street firms to receive cash from sovereign wealth funds — following Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and UBS.