Monday, May 14, 2007


The WSJ reports that DaimlerChrysler (DCX) is expected to announce as early as today a deal to sell a controlling stake in Chrysler Group to private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Mgmt. The proposed deal would allow the auto giant to shed Chrysler's $18bn in retirement and health-care liabilities and could open the door to further restructuring of the nation's unionized auto makers. Under the proposed deal, Chrysler Chief Executive Tom LaSorda would continue to run the company.

According to the WSJ, the Army is pushing to turn a crowded multibillion-dollar competition for the next generation of troop transports into something closer to a winner-take-all event. Now that the Pentagon is planning on buying many more of the vehicles, Army officials say they would like to see one primary design. That would make the vehicle much easier to maintain. "If you have four different vehicles, that means you have to have four different logistics systems to provide parts. You have to train soldiers how to fight from four different vehicles. It becomes very expensive and complex," the senior Army official said. US Central Command say that it now needs as many as 17,700 vehicles, enough to ensure that every soldier who leaves the base in Iraq is riding in one of them. The surge in demand has forced the smaller players, such as Force Protection (FRPT), to team up with major vehicle producers to increase production. Mike Aldrich, VP of business development and govt relations, said the Force Protection-General Dynamics (GD) joint venture could produce more than 10K MRAP vehicles by the end of ‘08. "What's holding us back is a substantial order," he said. Oshkosh Truck (OSK) has also entered the fray.

“Ahead of the Tape” out saying that if the housing-mkt shakeout has an epicenter, it probably lies in Florida. For co’s with business tied closely to the state, that is a problem. Home builders are getting hit hardest in Florida. Building permits for new-home construction were 51% below their year-ago level in the 1Q. Florida still boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. But it wouldn't be surprising to see its broader economy worsen in the mo’s ahead. Big public builders have established an outsized presence in Florida. Co’s that supply builders are feeling pinched. PGT (PGTI) generated 92% of its business in Florida last year. In the 1Q, PGT's sales were down 25%. Florida Rock (FRK) reported that 1Q sales were down 33%. Banks with exposure to Florida real estate have been getting hurt, even some far away from the state. In April, Webster Financial (WBS) warned that credit quality on its Florida residential-construction loan portfolios had deteriorated. Retailers with big exposure to the state could suffer, too. MarineMax (HZO) has been lowering its sales expectations. It generates more than 40% of its sales in Florida. Haverty Furniture (HVT) has said its sales in Florida are getting hurt by the combination of the housing downturn, rising insurance rates and rising property taxes charged to out-of-state residents. Florida has little in the way of exports, and so it is unlikely to get much help from strong global economic growth, says Goldman economist Jan Hatzius. He doesn't think the housing downturn is enough to push the whole US economy into recession, but it could be a "canary in the coal mine" of trouble in regional economies.

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