Archive for July, 2008

Arena Bowl brings smile to New Orleans economy (AP)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

NEW ORLEANS - In a city that has hosted Super Bowls, Bowl Championship Series title games, Final Fours and the NBA All-Star game, the lesser-known Arena Bowl is the little game that could.

Tourism officials say it will draw a welcome injection of visitors spending money at a time of year when soaring temperatures and high humidity chase tourists to the beach.

"It means a lot," said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It especially means a lot on a slow summer weekend where every visitor counts."

The Arena Football League's 22nd annual championship is expected to draw thousands of visitors. The game and the National Conference of State Legislatures convention with 6,000 attendees in town this week make for a back-to-back boost for the city's economy.

New Orleans is hosting the Arena Bowl for the second consecutive year. Sunday's game matches the Philadelphia Soul (15-3) against the San Jose SaberCats (13-5). It caps three days of events, including a free concert by Grammy winner Huey Lewis and The News and the ArenaBall Awards Gala, which, at $200 a ticket, is sold out with 1,500 attendees.

Game tickets are priced at $18 to $400. The league expects all 17,000 seats to be sold by the 3 p.m. EDT kickoff at the New Orleans Arena.

"It's the perfect event for this time of year," said Jay Cicero of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. "End of July, first of August is a very slow time for New Orleans' tourist industry."

The Sports Foundation estimates the event will have an economic impact of $15 million to $25 million.

By comparison, Romig said, the Sugar Bowl has an annual impact of about $200 million. With the addition of the BCS championship game in January 2008, the take for the two games approached $400 million.

A Super Bowl could bring more than $500 million to the city.

But the Arena Bowl's relatively modest effect is still welcome, said Martin Driskell, general manager of the downtown Hotel InterContinental.

"With the Arena Bowl in town, I'm already at 95 percent occupancy for the weekend and should sell out Sunday night," Driskell said. "And the nice thing is that it's an extended stay. A lot of people staying three or four nights. Monday night we're at 88 percent occupancy. And that's phenomenal for July."

Sideshows associated with the game should draw visitors and locals to the French Quarter, Romig said.

"A free concert and fireworks on Saturday night will bring people out," she said.

ESPN's telecast of the Arena Bowl also will give the city a needed boost, Romig said.

"The broadcasts always highlight some of our unique points," she said.

That's important for New Orleans, which fights dual perceptions that it is overrun with crime and still in ruins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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Lehman likely to make sizable asset sale: UBS (Reuters)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

BANGALORE (Reuters) -
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEH.N)
is likely to make a sizable asset sale, which may include a
sale of its investment management unit Neuberger Berger, in a
move to address problems, particularly those related to its
asset exposures and potential client erosion, said analysts at
UBS.

"While a sizable asset sale would remove some risk from
Lehman's balance sheet, it would also generate a pretty big hit
to book value (not sure on another capital raise), so there is
no free lunch," wrote analysts Glenn Schorr and Mike Carrier in
their note to clients.

The main issues plaguing the fourth-largest U.S. investment
bank were its remaining "problem" asset exposures, fears over
its client franchise, the less than favorable macro-economic
backdrop as well as lingering concerns over the future
structure of the industry, the analysts said.

"We think Lehman has a handful of potential scenarios it is
working on which could alleviate the current pressure, but as
with most things in life, timing is critical," wrote the two
analysts.

These potential scenarios are: a sale of a significant
block of risky assets worth more than $30 billion; a sale of
the whole firm; privatization; a sale or initial public
offering for Neuberger, which Lehman bought in 2003 for about
$3.1 billion; a strategic partnership with a "very credible"
partner; or a meaningful share buyback, Schorr and Carrier
said.

"We feel the most likely scenario is the sale of a large
block of risky assets, possibly in concert with the sale of
Neuberger as a way to partially plug any hit to book value
realized on the asset sale to possibly avoid another capital
raise," the analysts said.

However, a sale would need to take place in weeks, and not
months, as there could be an increasing supply of risk assets
coming into the market as other financial firms look to offload
risk as well, Schorr and Carrier said.

The company also has to be concerned about "perception
becoming reality" when it comes to protecting its client
franchise, they said.

"While clients and employees are nervous, from what we can
tell, there's only been modest client erosion at this point,"
they added.

Investors have been speculating about the fate of Lehman,
the smallest of the major Wall Street investment banks, since
the collapse of storied rival Bear Stearns Cos Inc in March.

Discredited rumors in recent weeks have pushed down the
company's share price.

"The longer the concerns about the firm's viability linger,
the pressures on the client franchise will likely intensify,"
the analysts said.

Lehman, however, has more "staying power" partly due to its
healthy liquidity profile and strong capital ratios, Schorr and
Carrier said.

The company has raised about $12 billion of capital this
year to strengthen its balance sheet, sold off assets, and
shaken up top management.

Despite repeated assurances by Lehman management about the
investment bank's capital and liquidity position, its stock has
fallen about 70 percent this year.

They cut their price target on stock to $22 from $32, but
maintained their "neutral" rating.

Shares of Lehman were trading up about 1 percent at $20.39
in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Editing by Jarshad Kakkrakandy)

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Boeing’s profit drops but it sticks to outlook (Reuters)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Boeing Co (BA.N) reported a
bigger-than-expected 19 percent drop in quarterly profit on
Wednesday as it took a charge on a delayed military plane
contract and suffered effects of its troubled 787 Dreamliner
program.

The world's biggest-selling plane maker and the Pentagon's
No. 2 contractor had lower sales at both its commercial and
military operations, but held to its financial forecasts for
this year and next, citing strong global demand for its
products.

The Chicago-based company, along with Airbus, a unit of
EADS (EAD.PA), is hoping high oil prices will spur demand for
its new fuel-efficient planes, but shares of both companies
have suffered over the past few months as investors worry that
prolonged increases in oil prices will prompt a global
recession.

The shares dropped 3.4 percent to $66.93 on the New York
Stock Exchange
on Wednesday. The stock is down 36 percent from
their all-time high a year ago, hurt by repeated delays on the
787 and rising oil prices.

"The real surprise of this quarter is the unusually soft
performance at commercial aircraft," Robert Stallard of
Macquarie Securities said in a note to clients. "However, there
is nothing in this quarter which we view as a fundamental,
long-term problem."

PROFIT DROP

Boeing, which beat archrival Airbus in the race for orders
last year, reported second-quarter net profit fell to $852
million, or $1.16 per share, from $1.05 billion, or $1.35 per
share, a year earlier.

It recorded a charge of $248 million for delays on a
surveillance plane the company is building for Australia, known
as Wedgetail. Boeing warned about the charge, which cut 22
cents from earnings per share, earlier this month.

Including the charge, Wall Street's average earnings target
was $1.23 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Overall revenue fell to $16.96 billion, below the $17.28
billion expected by analysts.

Boeing's commercial plane unit, which set an industry
record for orders last year, reported a 2 percent drop in
revenue to $8.6 billion. It delivered more planes to customers
in the quarter than a year earlier, but mostly the less
expensive, single-aisle 737s rather than the more profitable
777 minijumbos.

The unit said it was also hurt by costs "absorbed by other
production programs" due to the latest delay on its 787
Dreamliner, which is now at least 14 months late after a
succession of production problems.

Boeing said it was still having problems putting together
the first batch of Dreamliners for testing, but stuck with its
timetable for the first flight in the fourth quarter and first
delivery in the third quarter of 2009.

DEFENSE DOWN

The defense unit also reported a slight drop in revenue to
$7.93 billion due to fewer military aircraft deliveries and
lower sales of its network and space systems. The Wedgetail
charge lopped $248 million off the unit's profits.

Overall profit was further reduced by an $82 million
increase in aircraft financing reserves, a sign that Boeing is
expecting losses from some struggling airline customers.

For the full year, Boeing stood by its earnings forecast of
$5.70 to $5.85 per share. Analysts expect $5.85, on average.
The company also held to its 2009 forecast of $6.80 to $7.00
per share. Analysts expect $6.95, on average.

General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), another U.S. company that
spans the defense and civil aircraft markets, reported
better-than-expected results, helped by strong sales of its
combat vehicles and Gulfstream business jets.

The U.S. No. 4 defense contractor reported a 25 percent
rise in quarterly profit to $641 million, or $1.60 per share,
compared with $513 million, or $1.26 per share, a year earlier.
That easily beat analysts' average expectation of $1.44.

The company also raised its full-year earnings forecast to
a range of $6 to $6.05 per share, up from $5.55 to $5.65.
Analysts expected $5.90 per share.

(Editing by John Wallace/Jeffrey Benkoe)

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