So, anyone up for a bailout du jour?
Wake up and good morning. Ten Days that Shook the World is a book by an American journalist about the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. Maybe we need a new version of the same title about what's happening on Wall Street. We'll all await the opening of today's stock markets to measure the impact of the fed's bailout du jour: a two-year, $85-billion secured revolving credit line of insurance giant AIG. Here's AIG's statement on its own salvation. So far, the Asian markets seem okay with this, which may mean our own markets will be okay today.
So what's the tally so far? Some good news for Chapter 11 Lehman Brothers. After spurning a deal on the weekend, British banking giant Barclays Tuesday night said it has agreed to buy Lehman's investment banking and trading operations. That should save close to 10,000 Lehman jobs.
Bank of America still gets mostly positive marks for a $50-billion or so deal to buy Merrill Lynch, though some analysts are raising questions of how much BofA can absorb since it's still dealing with mortgage monster Countrywide. And though Wachovia Corp. has not been involved in any of Wall Street's recent deals, its stock continues to be hammered (approaching single digits earlier this week), raising speculation anew that it, too, may seek a partner in the likes of Well Fargo or even Wall Street's remaining brokerages of size -- Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs. We care because together Bank of America and Wachovia control more than a third of the banking market in Florida.
It's not all Wall Street's turn this week for turmoil. Pressed by its creditors, Woodside Homes, one of the nation's largest private builders, will seek bankruptcy protection, say documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Woodside is not a huge builder in the Tampa Bay area but it has one notable project: Tuscany at Tampa Palms off Bruce B. Downs in Tampa. Still, homebuilder sentiment shows some signs of life. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index rose two points to 18 this month from an all-time low of 16 in July and August.
Here's a yellow caution light on the spread of the financial mess. Two of the biggest computer vendors, Dell Inc. and Ingram Micro Inc. warn demand is weakening, adding to worries that the crisis on Wall Street would hurt corporate and consumer spending. It may also touch Tampa Bay's largest public company, Tech Data Corp., which competes directly and aggressively against Ingram.
Look at the Cheshire cat smile on cable/TV/Internet provider Bright House Networks this week. A J.D. Power survey, measuring customer satisfaction with both local and long distance telephone service in four regions across the United States, once again (that's three years in a row) says Bright House is tops in the South. That includes the Tampa Bay market where Bright House and Verizon are in a holy war to win over households on packaged telecommunications services. Bright House, the survey says, performs well in customer service, cost of service, billing, and offerings and promotions.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist