What Investors Might Have Missed in the Markets This Week
For those of you keeping count, you'll need to put another tally mark making the streak of record closes to seven sessions after the Dow Jones Industrials Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) notched a 1.75% gain for the week, ending at 20,624.05. Without further ado, since it was a week akin to the wild wild west, let's take a look at a couple of megamergers and a mega automaker potentially bowing out of Europe.
Mac & Jerry
The Kraft Heinz Company (NASDAQ: KHC) made headlines Friday morning after it announced a proposed $143 billion merger with Unilever in what would potentially be one of the biggest deals in history. Unfortunately, at least for now, the latter has declined, as it doesn't see strategic or financial merit at this time. But surely Kraft has no plans to give up on this match made in heaven that could place key parts of your fridge under one company umbrella. The combined company would combine Hellmann's mayo, Heinz ketchup, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Philadelphia cream cheese, and among many other products, Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
"While Unilever has declined the proposal, we look forward to working to reach agreement on the terms of a transaction," Kraft said in a statement, according to CNBC . "[But] there can be no certainty that any further formal proposal will be made to the Board of Unilever or that an offer will be made at all."
According to Unilever, Kraft's proposal was valued at approximately $143 billion, or $50 per share -- $30.23 per share in cash and .222 in shares of the combined of the combined company. And while the deal wouldn't be out of the ordinary after other consumer-goods mergers in recent years, Kraft would be pushing slightly into new markets with personal-care products such as Axe deodorant and Dove soaps, among others, which Unilever is known for.
This is going to be one of the biggest stories going forward into spring, and as it stands now, Kraft has until March 17, 2017, to announce its intention to make a specific offer, or put the idea to rest. While we might not know what Kraft will end up doing, investors seemed to cheer the idea with the company's stock price up 10% Friday alone.
Is this the next Big Three?
It seems we're in an era of the Big Three. We recently had the Boston Celtic's Big Three in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, followed by a few teams strategically copying that model. In business, we also had Detroit's Big Three automakers, and now we might be heading toward another Big Three.
As a rule of thumb, the two largest phone carriers in the U.S. have been dominant, followed by a smaller two in Sprint Corporation (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) . With a new administration that might view business deals differently than previous administrations, interest in a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile seems to be heating up. The idea is to create three ultra-competitive phone carriers rather than two dominant and two smaller carriers.
According to a Reuters report on Friday, Japan's SoftBank Group is prepared to give up control of Sprint to T-Mobile, and it's rumored that the companies may begin negotiations as soon as April. In theory, three ultra-competitive phone carriers makes sense, and in reality, it might.
But with all of President Donald Trump's grandstanding about creating jobs, saving jobs from leaving, and bringing jobs back, it's hard to imagine that this deal happens. After all, the idea of a merger is to create cost synergies and expand business scale to leverage buying power -- and that means job cuts.
Speaking a Big Three automaker
One of the more surprising headlines came early in the week when it was rumored, and later confirmed by both General Motors (NYSE: GM) and PSA Group , that the two automakers were in advanced discussion for the former to sell its Opel/Vauxhall European operations to the latter. At first glance, it was hard to believe, but in reality, it's likely the right move for General Motors.
You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find the last year General Motors actually turned a profit in Europe. Since then, it's been burning through around $20 billion.
It was going to be a milestone when General Motors broke even in Europe during 2016. But then, the U.K.'s surprise decision to leave the European Union threw a wrench in the company's plans, and was largely the reason GM cut its Europe Q4 earnings by $300 million. It appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
If General Motors pulls the trigger and makes a clean exit out of Europe, Detroit's automaker will essentially concede it won't compete for the title of "World's Largest Automaker" against Volkswagen and Toyota. That's OK, though, and General Motors has made many recent decisions that focus on bottom-line profits rather than top-line sales.
According to Automotive News , citing people familiar with the matter, the valuation for GM's Opel unit is around $2 billion. While this development was off the radar for many, it's probably a move that General Motors will make, and it'll be a good decision.
The automaker should stop burning money in Europe and take what value it can get, and pour it into development of autonomous vehicle technology and smart mobility projects to rival overnight sensations such as Uber. That's the future of the automotive industry, not sales in Europe.
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