Monday, December 04, 2006


The WSJ reprots that the partnership formed by Carl Icahn in his effort to acquire Reckson Associates (RA) unraveled over the weekend. But the REIT said Mr. Icahn insists he is prepared to move forward alone with his bid. Harry Macklowe, a New York real-estate developer, pulled out of the partnership with Mr. Icahn yesterday. That followed the withdrawal of Mack-Cali Realty (CLI) from the partnership on Saturday.

According to the WSJ, Qualcomm (QCOM) is buying two chip businesses that could take the co into new wireless mkts and strengthen its position against Intel and other rivals. The co is buying closely held Airgo Networks, a start-up that specializes in WiFi. Qualcomm is also buying some operations of RF Micro Devices (RFMD), which makes Bluetooth.

The WSJ reports that forecasts being released this week suggest that the tough ad mkt experienced this year is likely to worsen in ‘07. Not only will marketers continue to shift dollars from traditional media to emerging venues such as the Internet, possibly at a slightly reduced rate, but audience fragmentation will make it harder for media outlets to win price increases. At least that is the view of Merrill Lynch and media buyers ZenithOptimedia and GroupM. Each predicts growth in total ad spending will slow next year in the US and world-wide. Publicis Groupe’s Zenith and WPP Group’s GroupM are issuing their forecasts at investor conferences that start today.

“Heard on the Street” column discusses AXA (AXA), suggesting that investors could profit handsomely with the stock. Co’s CEO Henri de Castries last year told investors that by 2012 the co would double ‘04 rev and triple that year's underlying earnings. Those are big numbers considering the co reported more than $139bn in total rev last year. That was tops among insurers and among the highest pocketed by public co’s world-wide. To reach those goals, the co has said it has to raise its earnings at about a 15% annual clip. In an 87-page presentation in Oct, Mr. de Castries listed the specific growth and mkt returns that would be needed, without factoring in acquisitions. The co's assumptions, such as 3-5% annual growth in property-casualty rev and 5-10% annual growth in sales of life insurance and savings products, aren't heroic. "I'd say they probably will achieve their 2012 targets," says Nicholas Byrne, of JP Morgan. Mr. Byrne rates the stock a Buy and the co is his firm's top pick for this year in insurance.

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