Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Paperstand (BRKA, PHH, LEN, AAPL)

The WSJ’s “Heard on the Street” column out saying that while the Warren Buffett hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing, the Jan. 7 criminal trial of 4 former insurance execs of General Re, a reinsurance unit of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), and one former exec of American Intl. Group (AIG), could be as much about Mr. Buffett as it will be about a 7-yr-old reinsurance transaction that federal prosecutors said was a fraud. The case, to be heard in federal court in Connecticut, is the culmination of a nearly 3yr inquiry into what prosecutors said was a sham deal that helped AIG boost its loss reserves in 2000 and 2001 by about $500m, misleading analysts and investors about the amount of losses AIG could absorb and buttressing its stock price. The trial will likely cast an unflattering light on the alleged inner workings of General Re and renew questions about the involvement of Mr. Buffett in the transaction. Several of the defendants will assert in the trial that Mr. Buffett knew about the deal, giving it the stamp of legitimacy.

New Year's Day was only 18 minutes old when it became clear 2008 would bring more pain for Wall Street's top deal makers. PHH (PHH) announced minutes after midnight yesterday that the deadline for completion of its acquisition by Blackstone Group and a unit of General Electric (GE) had lapsed and the deal terminated. PHH said the $1.7bn deal had fallen apart b/c Blackstone couldn't come up with the needed funding. Blackstone owes the co a $50m break-up fee.

Barron’s Online “Inside Scoop” section reports that one Lennar (LEN) exec sold shares purchased in Aug at a $300K loss. On Thu VP and head of investor relations Marshall Ames sold 30K class A shares for $540K. On Aug. 16 Ames had purchased 30K shares for $845K. The stock has continued to fall and when Ames sold the 30K shares they were worth $305K less than the purchase price. "I think the sales accurately reflect most investors' sentiment toward the home-building space right now," says Ben Silverman, of InsiderScore.com. "Aside from being a buyer in August, it's also interesting b/c as head of investor relations he is in charge of speaking to the investment community. I certainly don't think anyone's willing to call a bottom to the home-building cycle yet."

The NY Post reports that Apple (AAPL) scored with another big Christmas of iPod gift-giving this year, but the reign of dedicated music players may have peaked as competition mounts from cellphones that play tunes and video. Overall sales growth of gadgets that play media, but that don't make calls, is expected to slow sharply over the next 5ys after a decade of double-digit gains, according to iSuppli. The party is about to be over, as the firm expects global growth to slow to just 3.5% to $20.2bn in ‘08. Sales growth is forecast to virtually flatten to $20.7bn by 2011. The slowdown in the next 24mo’s is due to the "long-term threat" from multi-media devices that make calls, says iSuppli analyst Chris Crotty. Ross Rubin, of NPD, says the handwriting is already on the wall, as music-capable phones now outnumber portable music and video players, even if owners are not actively using them as iPod replacements right now.

1 comment:

Joojee said...

Music player sales are about to flatten?? With about 500 million middle classers in China and India alone not even having touched one yet!?!? And someone is getting paid for this "analysis"? Everyone of my relatives in India wants an iPod and will get one in the next 1 to 3 years ... that's about 200 of them right there ... and they pay $100 for Razr which we get for free in US with service commitment. This guy has no idea what he is talking about.