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Opening Bell: 12.01.08

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Holiday Shopping Numbers Don't Completely Suck (WSJ)
In a survey of 3370 shoppers, the National Retail Federation showed a 7.2% gain in money spent over the last year, while 39.3% of shoppers got their shit handled vs. 36.4% last year - suggesting possibly sluggish numbers going forward. Online sales were flat to up 1% holding at $534MM according to comStore Inc., an online market-research firm.
Good numbers should bode well for today, but there's going to be a fight now for the rest of the Holiday Season unless the market holds its crappy pricing strategy; pricing optimism in at this point would be a sore, sore mistake.
Citi Buys Into Spanish Infrastructure (MarketWatch)
This deal is complex in nature; essentially Citi Infrastructure Partners is looking to purchase $10.2B in Itinere Infraestructuras from Sacyr Vallehermoso, which accounts for roughly 55% of the company. After completion, the Citi Fund will package and sell highway concessions back to Sacyr for some €450MM, and will package and sell highways in Chile, Spain, and Brazil to Albertis and and Atlantia for roughly $1.42B.
The move will reduce the debt load of Sacyr Vallehermoso by approximately 37%, as the Citi fund assumes €5B in debt.
Also on the board for Citi: Financial Times has it that Pandit's so-much-more-than-Treasury's-Bitch is going to sell NikkoCiti Trust and Banking Corporation, a smallish Banking/Trust corp held in Japan for Y40B ($425.5MM).
Neuberger Bid Deadline Looms (Reuters)
Bids close at 12/noon today. Right now there's $2.15B on the table, which could be a phenomenal price depending on the standing stability of the company. The article has it that there was interest from Carlyle and Blackstone both, the former refused comment and the latter wasn't asked.
MS Looks At Bank Deposits, Possible M&A (WSJ)
This thing pitches as an advertisement for MS's Banking division, but there's some interesting stuff in here about the possibilities for M&A:
"... That means Morgan Stanley is likely to buy several small or medium-sized banks over time, according to analysts. And with 20% of all U.S. households generating about 75% of deposits, "having a line into that customer segment would be very valuable," says Michael Poulos, a managing partner at consulting firm Oliver Wyman."
And later...
"Potential fits include Boston Private Financial Holdings, with $4.6 billion of deposits, and City National Corp. of Los Angeles, with $11 billion of deposits. Both banks declined to comment."
Which all begs the question: First Year Teller Numbers?
AIG Dumps Swiss Bank (FT)
AIG is selling its Swiss arm AIG Private Bank to Aabar Investments PJSC for an estimated $247MM - $412MM.
Deutsche Bank Sues Trump (WSJ)
Trump, late on his mortgage payments, sought an extension earlier this year in court under majeure but was denied; DB's looking for $40MM personal guarantee on the loan that has an outstanding balance of $334MM.
I personally would love to see this played out in the press, Rosie O'Donnell style.
OPEC Sits On Hands (DJNewsPlus)
OPEC hasn't decided what to do yet, which has left to Oil pushing lower:
"The front-month January contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was trading $2.41 lower at $52.02 a barrel."
My take: For most Americans lower Gas prices has the same effect as an interim Tax cut or stimulus check, but more beneficial to the economy in general because the money is already in cycle and more likely to be spent. The money saved can be substantial: If you drive 400mi/week (20k year) @20mpg, you're consuming 20G a week. At $1.80 down from $3.80 you're saving $40 week/$2080 a year, or 5% of your gross income at 40k/7% net.

--William Richards