On a day full of exultation for The Oracle of Omaha, we could not help but see the irony of Warren Buffett losing yet another bet and not paying up...
"At the bottom of the cycle, firms cut labor faster than output. The higher productivity led to improving margins, earnings and stock prices. Now labor is being added faster than output, and with large companies like McDonalds, Walmart and Target announcing pay increases, unit labor costs are likely to increase further. All told, there is a good chance earnings will actually shrink this year. We think the market is too high if earnings have, in fact, peaked for the cycle, and we have reduced our net exposure by adding more shorts."
- David Einhorn
The entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt. Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system. Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again.
"[GE] said it doesn’t expect its GE Capital unit to sell new long-term debt for at least five years, effectively eliminating one of the biggest corporate issuers at a time when firms around the globe are tapping the market at a record clip…"
GE’s announcement that its getting out of the finance business should be a reminder of how crony capitalism is corrupting and debilitating the American economy. The ostensible reason the company is unceremoniously dumping its 25-year long build-up of the GE Capital mega-bank is that it doesn’t want to be regulated by Washington as a systematically important financial institution under Dodd-Frank. Oh, and that its core industrial businesses have better prospects. We will see soon enough about its oilfield equipment and wind turbine business, or indeed all of its capital goods oriented businesses in a radically deflationary world drowning in excess capacity. But at least you can say good riddance to GE Capital because it was based on a phony business model that was actually a menace to free market capitalism. Its deplorable raid on the public purse during the Lehman crisis had already demonstrated that in spades.
GE Capital's 2014 loan portfolio was marked at $363 billion. It will take a lot of maneuvering to bring it down to the $90 billion target. With the market at all-time highs and with valuations stretched beyond all conceivable rationality, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said now is a "perfect time to be a seller. People are lining up at the starting line."
Back in April 2013, Apple shocked the world when in a dramatic U-turn to Steve Jobs beliefs, it announced what was "the largest single share repurchase authorization in history" when it boosted its share repurchase authorization to $60 billion from $10 billion. Today, GE did its best to match this number, when it reported that as part of a massive business restructuring, it announced a "new Board authorization of up to $50B buyback." This is how it will fund it.
GE Announces One Of Largest Buybacks In History, Will Repuchase $50 Bn In Shares After Selling Most Of GE CapitalSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/10/2015 07:16 -0400
Moments ago, General Electric showed why April is much more likley to be a rerun of February than January or March when it announceed that it would go ahead and repurchase half of the total record stock buybacks announced in February, or some $50 billion in what may be the largest stock buyback announcement in history! How will GE fund this massive distribution to its shareholders, of which the most concentrated one will once again be the biggest winners? Simple: by dumping the division that nearly caused its insolvency during the financial crisis, the hedge fund known as GE Capital. As part of the just announced mega transaction, GE announced an agreement to sell the bulk of the assets of GE Capital Real Estate to funds managed by Blackstone. Wells Fargo will acquire a portion of the performing loans at closing.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
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If it seems like it was exactly a year ago that turmoiling retailer Radioshack shut down 500 stores due to lack of consumer interest in its wares (and or consumer disposable cash), it is because it was. So how does Radioshack demonstrate its morbid sense of humor on the one year anniversary of said announcement? Well, by closing another 500, or about 12% of the retailer's total 4500 outlets currently in existence. The WSJ reports that the company which once was the butt of all LBO-rumor jokes (and still is, only this time in the context of an M&A-rumor with JCPenney and/or the Joseph A. Wearhouse joint venture), is "planning to close around 500 stores in the coming months as the electronics retailer continues working with advisers to restructure the company."
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