Lyft and Waymo = Carpool; Bud Spending $2 billion to Up Its Game; AIG Bets Big on Latest CEO

Self-less…

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In case you were having trouble envisioning a world with driverless cars, you might want to check out Alphabet Inc.’s company Waymo. Waymo, a self-driving car company,  has just teamed up with Lyft, and that should be enough to make Uber more than a little nervous. You might be wondering why a company owned by Google even needs a much smaller company like Lyft for a partnership. But believe it or not, there’s a little quid pro quo going on because since Lyft has the dubious distinction of being the second largest ride service company, it will allow Waymo’s technology to reach even more people than without it. Isn’t that just beautiful? Uber, on the other hand, is looking to develop driverless technology on its own. If you recall, Waymo sued Uber back in February, alleging that Uber stole Waymo’s self-driving technology to build its own fleet.  But with the way things are going for Uber lately, it might be more prudent for the embattled ride-sharing company to focus on its current crop of legal and publicity challenges instead of driverless cars. For the time being anyway.  By the way, Lyft’s deal with Waymo is not exclusive. Which is super important considering that GM is a big Lyft investor and already has its own partnership in place to develop self-driving cars. It’s like legit double-dipping and everybody wins. In fact, come 2018, Lyft and GM will be set to deploy and test thousands of self-driving cars. Yikes!

Competitive beer…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It might be hard to believe but the King of Beers is not looked upon as the royalty it once was. And so, its parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev NV is plunking down $2 billion to try and fix that issue. The plan is to make a substantial, lucrative foray into new categories, while at the same time boosting its flagship brands which have been staring down the wrong end of increased competition.  The money will be spent over the next four years, using approximately $500 million per year. In case you were thinking that $2 billion seems like an awfully bloated  – no pun intended – number to spend on improving a beer brand, consider that beer is a more than $107 billion industry and no self-respecting beer company wants to lose ground in a market like that.  And make no mistake, beer has been losing ground lately with not as much of it being consumed like in years past. Hard to believe. I know, but various types of other alcoholic beverages have been flooding the market in recent years and consumers are digging them. Which leaves companies like Anheuser-Busch scrambling to reclaim its foamy territory.

No pressure or anything…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe the seventh time’s a charm for AIG, which just announced it’s coughing up $12 million – and then some – to pay its newest CEO, Brain Duperreault. By “then some” I refer to an additional 1.5 million stock options and a $16 million pay package all based on the hope that Duperreault will finally be the one to turn AIG around. Did you catch that? He’s getting all that and he hasn’t sat at his new desk yet. The last CEO, Peter Hancock, left in March because he wasn’t feeling the love, or rather investor support, including from the one and only Carl Icahn. But Brian Deperreault just might have what AIG’s been looking for all these years, well at least since 2005. He’s no stranger to AIG, having worked there as a deputy way back when. He’s coming over from Hamilton Insurance, and before that he was at Marsh & McClennan Cos. earning solid reputations at both firms. As for his first order of business: achieve stability in a company that has seen too many high-level departures, four straight quarters of losses and high claims costs. Good luck with that one, Mr. Duperreault. You’re gonna need it.

Mega Media Merger; Fitbit is Overweight…And That’s a Good Thing; Some Foam for Thought

Urge to merge…

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While you were busy navigating mall parking lots trying to find a parking space so you could do some meaningful Labor Day shopping, Media General was also busy doing some shopping of its own. The media company picked up, or merged – as it’s being called – with Meredith Media to the tune of $2.4 billion. The new company to be borne out of this merger will be called Meredith Media General – how convenient – and will take its place as the third largest television station operator in the U.S. Media General is gaining an additional 17 television stations, bringing its grand total to 88. Meredith also brings with it some great poolside reading, including Better Homes and Gardens, Shape and Parents magazine – the ultimate publication that lets parents know they are doing everything wrong. The deal was done for $51.53 per share, a generous 12% premium from Meredith’s Friday closing price of $45.94. While the boards of both companies approved the deal, the FCC must also gives its blessing for this union, which is estimated to rake in $3 billion in annual revenue. And here’s a little fun fact: Meredith Media began in 1902 as an agricultural publisher. Who knew?

Fit to be upgraded…

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says fit like having your stock upgraded by Morgan Stanley to overweight. Oh the irony.  Morgan Stanley had initially classified the stock as equal weight as in, it’s right where it belongs. But alas! Morgan Stanley has been noticing how Fitbit has been performing really nicely lately, fiscally speaking of course, and expects the maker of the wearable device to outperform aka overweight. That is a finance term, I kid you not, which also can mean (and does in this instance) outperform. And who does’t love a stock that is overweight and outperforms? Hence, the stock rallied today. In fact, Fitbit had its biggest jump today since June, when it debuted at a relatively modest $20 per share. Second quarter revenue tripled from a year earlier to over $400 million, compelling Morgan Stanley to revise Fitbit’s target price from a paltry $43 per share to a handsome $58 per share. And it’s no wonder since Fitbit has a staggering 21% piece of a a $10 billion industry. As for that little company we call Apple, it appears that wondrous watch they peddle isn’t swaying those Fitbit wearers, many of whom have decided against purchasing that ever wondrous piece of technology. Fitbit’s stock price, btw, hit $34.77 and closed today at $35.49.

An ice cold one…

Image courtesy of Getideaka/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Getideaka/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because it’s the thing to do, Heineken is adding to its stash of beer selections by welcoming craft brewery Lagunitas Brewery to its foamy fold. Apparently craft beer is the new black and has been growing at a steady clip compared to its less craftier counterparts, whose growth rate has slowed considerably. In fact, one out of every ten beers is a craft beer. Clearly it’s all the rage. Lagunitas’ beverages, most notable for its India Pale Ale, are reputed to be so tasty, that the company shipped out 600,000 barrels just in 2014. Unfortunately, now with Heineken taking a 50% stake in Lagunitas, the California-based beer company no longer gets to sport the craft brewer status. In order to be classified in that illustrious category, a company must be less than 25% owned or controlled by a larger brewer. Oh well. But at least with Heineken buying it, Lagunitas gets to spread its foamy wings and bring its tasty ales to other parts of the world that have yet to experience the joy that is…Lagunitas.