Tuesday, January 09, 2007


According to the WSJ, General Electric (GE) has asked for bids on its plastics business, valued at as much as $10bn, in an auction that appears to reflect new concerns from the DoJ about the lack of competition among possible private-equity buyers. GE has told a handful of private-equity firms contacted about the possible plastics-unit sale that they face restrictions on their ability to team up with other private-equity bidders. Although the exact nature of the restrictions isn't known, sources indicated that the contacted firms aren't allowed to call other buyout funds about teaming up.

The WSJ reports that Apple (AAPL) may announce as early as Tuesday a device that combines the iPod with a cellphone. Cingular Wireless will provide cellphone service to go with the phone. Such a product would give Apple access to the huge wireless business, with nearly a billion handsets shipped every year. That dwarfs the nearly 70m iPods Apple has sold over the past 5 years. Apple could also further outline its plans to enter the interactive television business with a product code-named iTV.

"Heard on the Street" column out saying that skies may darken for insurers. The risk business is getting a little riskier for insurance co shareholders. In coming weeks, property-casualty insurers are expected to report record profits for '06, but their ample cash and the rising competition it fosters are pushing down premiums. That often is a sign profits for the most aggressive players could take a hit down the road and is a red flag for investors who are exposed to this risk if they own some property-casualty specialists. "When you've gone through a bad period, you do behave in a more conservative fashion," says William Berkley, CEO of W.R. Berkley (BER). Smaller players or bigger co's could seek to build mkt share by cutting prices. For a broad view of pricing trends, investors might pay close attention to commentary from big insurers and reinsurers like AIG (AIG), Allianz (AZ) and Swiss Re.

Barron's Online "Inside Scoop" section, during the 4Q, 3 execs and directors at Vornado (VNO) sold 1.56m shares for $184.2m. According a report by Lehman Brothers analyst David Harris, sales at Vornado raised insider sales across the REIT industry to $327m during the 4Q, the highest level since the firm started following these transactions 4 years ago.

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