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.

Icahn: A Man of Letters; IBM Looks to Weather Some Storms; Twitter Has Yet to Impress

Icahn. Therefore I am…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Carl Icahn took time out of his busy schedule of haranguing Congress and ousting CEO’s to write yet another letter, this time on his website, to insurance company AIG. Icahn now owns a sizable chink of the company, though exactly how much remains a mystery. He only tells us that it is very “large.” I, for one, believe him, just cause it’d be kind of weird to make something like that up. Besides, he usually goes big. In his advice letter to AIG, the activist investor writes, “There is no more need for procrastination.” He wants AIG split up into three separate divisions because he’s not digging the company’s “Systemically Important Financial Institution” status, or SIFI if you’re feeling funky.  If you find that term a bit too clunky, then, by all means, refer to it by its other more user-friendly term, “Too Big To Fail,” as in the 2008 fiscal crisis and the HBO movie of the same name (that starred Bill Pullman  as JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Ed Asner as Warren Buffet). Icahn believes that when a company gets SIFI status it’s bad. It’s like a tax. A tax of a bunch of regulators breathing down your fiscal back with heavy breaths of federal oversight. Companies that don’t get saddled with that status are more valuable to shareholders, in Mr. Icahn’s not-so-humble opinion. Icahn wants to divide AIG into a property and casualty coverage division, a life insurance division, and a mortgage backing division. Then he wants to throw in some cuts and have AIG buy back some stock. After that, he feels AIG will start trading closer to its book value at about $100 a share. Right now the stock is trading at just under $64 and trades for less than 80% of its book value (which, by the way measures assets minus liabilities). As for AIG CEO Peter Hancock, well, Icahn will probably find a way to kick him out of AIG if he doesn’t take his advice.

Super duper…

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today’s big shopper is IBM, who is getting set to acquire The Weather Co.’s digital assets. In case you were wondering (because I know you were), those digital assets are its websites and apps. The channel, however, stays put, as it doesn’t really fit into IBM’s master plan. That master plan involves IBM beefing up its Watson Internet of Things Unit, its artificial intelligence unit that puts the super in supercomputer. The data supplied by the deal will give Watson the ability to create accurate forecasts – is that an oxymoron? – and will be able to provide commercial clients, from airlines to insurance companies, and beyond, very precise information. While the exact terms of the purchase have yet to be disclosed, the deal is rumored to be valued at around $2 billion. Naturally, shares of IBM took a little ride on the uptown train because of the super news.

These are the not quite the Moments…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter is down 13% for the year and another 11% just today, and yet the micro-blogging site still beat the street. The social media company pulled down $569 million in revenue adding ten cents per share. Analysts predicted that Twitter would score closer to $560 million and add only a nickel per share. In terms of last year at this time, Twitter was up 58%. But here’s where things start to go south. The company revised its fourth quarter profit outlook between $695 million and $710 million. That seems like a whole lot of cash except that analysts were expecting numbers closer to $740 million. Then we turn to growth. There wasn’t that much of it.  Twitter only managed to add about 4 million new active monthly users. A very unimpressive 11% increase over the same time last year. Analysts, however, are still optimistic that launches, including the much-hyped Moments, and its increasing ad revenues will help turn the company’s fiscal tide.