Unstructured Finance

Deals wrap: Just one word – plastics

A worker sorts plastic bottles at a recycling centre in Hefei, Anhui province November 10, 2010. REUTERS/StringerPlastics. They don’t glitter like gold does, but more top hedge fund managers are betting on the chemical commodities that go into making plastics and buying up shares in the companies that produce them.

The Smart Money 30, a group that includes some of the biggest stock-picking equity funds, also trimmed bets on tech giants Apple and Google while favoring General Motors and Citigroup, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

What’s the easiest way to boost your company’s reputation? Buy up a top global brand. At least that’s the advice being given to top Chinese companies by the country’s commerce minister, who is urging the country’s firms to seek out new foreign acquisitions in an effort to secure more name recognition abroad.

More signs that the luxury market has bounced back from its recession-induced slump. France’s LVMH, the world’s number one luxury group, snapped up widely-popular Italian jewelry maker Bulgari in a deal valued at $5.19 billion as it aims to bulk up its jewelry business and expand in emerging markets. Some analysts say the offer could set off a new wave of consolidation in the luxury market.

Some of the hottest tech startups are clamping down on trading of their shares as the race to snap up pieces of pre-IPO companies has attracted the scrutiny of U.S. regulators, write correspondents Alexei Oreskovic and Liana Baker.

Deals wrap: What’s next for Apple?

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs smiles after the Apple's music-themed September media event in San Francisco, California September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Robert GalbraithShares of Sony rose nearly 3 percent at one point on Tuesday, but later retreated as analysts dismissed speculation that the electronics maker could be an acquisition target of Apple. *View article *View WSJ article looking at an Apple tie-up with Netflix

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said hedge fund manager Todd Combs would join the firm, potentially bringing the company a step closer to solving Buffett’s succession puzzle.*View article *View background article on Todd Combs

The NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin delves into SEC insider trading laws and how they apply to two rail yard employees facing charges. *View article

Check Out Line: Borders launches e-bookstore … finally

bgp1Check out Borders Group finally launching its e-bookstore.

The No. 2 U.S. bookstore chain’s electronic bookstore comes nine months after rival Barnes & Noble debuted its Nook e-reader and three months after Apple introduced its popular iPad tablet computer, allowing both companies, and Amazon.com, which sells the Kindle e-reader, to get a head start.

No worries, says Borders, which saw sales at its namesake superstores open at least a year and on its website fall 11.4 percent in the first quarter.

“We’ll take market share just by turning it on,” said Mike Edwards, president of Borders Inc, the company’s main operating business.

World Cup is no March Madness in sapping productivity

cup1It may be the World Cup, but when it comes to sapping productivity in the United States the global soccer tournament still has a thing or two to learn from March Madness and the National Football League.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which often measures lost workplace productivity, said many U.S. fans will tune in for the quadrennial soccer tournament, which kicks off Friday in South Africa, but the event still trails the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, dubbed March Madness, and other events.

“Soccer simply has not caught on with the majority of American sports fans, Challenger CEO John Challenger said in a statement.

Palm looking for an old China hand?

Our report that the money-losing smartphone maker went to China in February in an attempt to sell itself to telecom/tech titan Huawei Technologies makes perfect sense. The mystery is that the talks appeared to go nowhere. Huawei and ZTE, the two big Chinese telecom equipment makers, both have money and ambition and would only be helped by a well-known brand like Palm, right?

Unfortunately, Palm is currently well known for being the laggard behind Apple and RIM, so any buyer will have to have a sensible plan for revitalizing the brand against two of the best in the business. But if Huawei and ZTE are holding out for a better brand, they could be in for a long wait. Palm may not be number one, but it is still a premium brand in a shark-infested marketplace.

After a big run-up on takeover speculation, the stock has fallen back as investors start to expect a take-under – meaning whatever price a buyer does come up with will not match the market’s heady expectations.

No need for a man purse, wear an iPad vest instead!

img_ipad_framesYou’ve got the hottest new gadget in town. Now where do you put it?
 
Inside an iPAD-compatible vest, of course.
 
Ketchum, Idaho-based Scottevest, which debuted a line of clothing in 2005 that was compatible with the smaller iPod, has introduced “outerwear” with a large interior pocket that holds Apple‘s latest device securely without damaging the screen.    

“If you’re going to carry it around all the time, you don’t want to carry it in a purse,” said Chief Executive and Founder Scott Jordan. “I don’t think men want to carry around a purse.” 

The jackets and vests, which cost about $100 and are based on the humble yet practical fly-fisherman’s vest, can also tote Kindles, magazines, or legal pads.
    
Making apparel compatible with technology is nothing new. In 2005, companies like Scottevest and Kenpo in New York introduced jackets that hid unsightly iPod wires and allowed users to access the device’s controls.

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their “Sweet 16″ picks in Consumerist.com’s annual “Worst Company in America”  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 “teams,” the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the “winner” (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an “upset” Cash4Gold beat defending “champion” AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.

Window shopping on the iPad, brought to you by eBay

eBay_iPad_1Shopping in front of a computer or small hand-held device got you down? EBay says it has the answer with its new iPad app, completely redesigned for ultimate browsing on Apple‘s hippest new tablet.

The app has already been downloaded “tens of thousands” of times  since the launch of the iPad on Saturday, said eBay’s vice president of mobile, Steven Yankovich. Currently, eBay is No 11 in the list of free iPad apps, he said.

The app allows shoppers to see high-resolution images of their favorite products, even in thumbnails, and an easy-to-navigate two screen system simplifies the buying process.

Check Out Line: Best Buy, Apple to sell iPads on Saturday

bestbuyCheck out how the long wait for the iPad is nearing its end.

Best Buy and Apple’s own stores will begin selling the much-hyped iPad tablet computer on Saturday morning.

Apple said on Monday that versions of the device with Wi-Fi wireless Internet capabilities will be available in all 221 U.S. Apple retail stores and most Best Buy stores, for prices ranging from $499 to $699. Models using 3G wireless systems will hit stores in late April.

Not that the roll out of the iPad, Apple’s biggest new product launch since the iPhone in 2007, has been without hiccups – on Sunday, Apple said recent orders of the iPads will only be shipped beginning April 12.

Check Out Line: Want growth? Buy up.

Check Out retail strategy for growth.APPLE/EARNINGS

A list of the top 10 companies from a “Hot 100 Retailers list” compiled by Planet Retail for the National Retail Federation showed that while a few companies grew organically, most grew as a result of a merger or acquisition.

Topping the list of companies that grew through a deal was DineEquity,  which bought Applebee’s last year. 

Others in that category include Susser Holdings after its purchase of Town & Country Food Stores and Village Market grocery stores, as well as the combination of fast food chains Wendy’s and Arby’s into Wendy’s/Arby’s.

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