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Opening Bell: 2.14.07

Four Brands in Car Rental May Merge (NYT)
People always talk about airlines consolidating, even though it's a very difficult proposition with little track record. In other words, you could probably count the number of moderately successful airline mergers, around the globe, on one hand, if you were deformed. But what about the guys near the baggage check? Certainly seems like we could afford some consolidation in the auto rental market, seeing as most of the companies have little unique to offer. Word is that Daimler is in talks to sell its Thrifty unit to Vanguard auto rental, which also owns National and Alamo. Seems like they could easily unite all these names into one, and then have one long check in counter to reduce wait times.
Analysts: Alcoa Takeover Bid Unlikely (AP)
Rumors of Alcoa's impending acquisition were received warmly by the market yesterday, with traders sending everything up in hopes of widescale M&A. But before we get too excited about the whole damn market getting bought out, it's not even clear that anything will happen with Alcoa. At least the analysts paid to quote on these things think it's a long shot. One Morgan Stanley analyst noted that both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are mainly interested in mining, and have little need for Alcoa's more downstream business. Of course, whatever the analysts say, you can be sure that there are guys in the other side of the business, trying to convince these potential acquirers that it would be a perfect fit.
Odds Are, They’ll Know ’08 Winner (NYT)
David Leonhardt's Economix column has a profile of Intrade, the one moderately liquid prediction market, where you can bet on event outcomes, such as political races. In the past couple years, there's been a lot of talk about the predictive power of these markets, with many noting that they often best the pundits when it comes to calling the winner. This is something that needs to be broken down a little bit. We're as big fans as any of the markets, but it's really hard to say what Intrade is good at predicting. During the mid-term elections, the site basically followed the news. When it looked like George Alan was going to win re-election, the markets predicted as such. When, late in the night, the networks started talking about late votes coming in from Northern Virgina, things flattened out. It may be true that the market can digest and assess news quicker than anything else, but it's a bit of a stretch to say it knows the winner.
Trading Blizzards (Infectious Greed)
It looks like we have the first snow/freezing rain-like substance of the new year. It's too bad, we were hoping that it wouldn't come all year, although we knew that was optimistic. If folk wisdom is to be believed, expect a jump in heating oil futures. Or, according to past trends, buy stocks at the open, and sell them before the close (if you would define what we're getting as a blizzard).

Coca-Cola Bottler to Ax About 3,500 Jobs (AP)
One thing we've always thought would be pretty fun would be to build a Coca-Cola index. Basically, there's a whole bunch of publicly traded companies that have the name Coke or Coca-Cola in them, most of which are regional bottlers of the stuff. So it'd be cool to make a tracking stock, or at least a measure for all of them. As for the biggest non-Coke Coke company, Coke bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises, announced layoffs of 3,500, amid restructuring and higher commodity costs, in particular aluminum.
Exxon Chief Cautions Against Rapid Action to Cut Carbon Emissions (NYT)
We're starting to miss Lee Raymond. Exxon, which had been known for its unaccommodating stance on global warming and alternative energy (no Beyond Petroleum here), is now joining the ranks of businesses that say something must be done about rising CO2 levels, and the effect that it's having on warming the earth. Granted, new Rex Tillerson is no green. He remains a strong defender of oil, and insists that it's the only game in town, for many years to come. But, he's also a smart businessman, and so he knows there's a reason that all these big companies are starting to talk about the environment. Better them lead the way than Nancy Pelosi. And if they can help draft the regulations, they should be able to keep a nice barrier against the competition.
How an Amateur Inventor Got Wheeled-Footwear Concept Rolling (WSJ)
The whole Heelys thing is a little much, as is the interest in the stock. C'mon, shoes with wheels in 'em? That being said, the story of their inventor is a bit charming, if only for the cliche. Basically, he sounds like a crazed inventor, cutting into Nike shoes, and sticking metal rollers in the soles. When he finally found a stance that allowed them to roll, it must've been something akin to Doc discovering the flux capacitor. it should make anyone sentimental for capitalism that a guy cutting up Nikes in his garage -- yes he did it in his garage -- could turn that into a public company.
Nasdaq Chief Says He ‘Chose Not to Win’ L.S.E. (Dealbook)
Did you ever lose to your younger brother in a game of cards and then insist that you let him win? Of course you have. That pretty much seems to be what the head of the NASDAQ is saying, with respect to its failed bid for the L.S.E. Basically, he said, he could've gotten the deal done if he had been willing to pay more. Hmm, that seems pretty obvious, and could apply to all failed deals. Then he said this, which doesn't make much sense, "Many of the investors were involved in game theory calculations to extract the highest price". We're not sure what game theory has to do with it -- they just wanted higher prices, and the NASDAQ didn't want to pay 'em.