AIG to Convert Preferred Shares Into Common to Repay U.S. [Bloomberg]
“American International Group Inc. agreed with U.S. regulators to repay its bailout by converting the government’s holdings into common shares for sale, a step toward independence for the insurer whose near collapse two years ago threatened the global economy.
The U.S. Treasury Department will convert its preferred stake of about $49.1 billion for 1.66 billion shares of common stock and then sell the holdings in the open market, AIG said today in a statement. Common shareholders, who hold about 20 percent of the company, will have their stake dilut ent, the insurer said. Those investors will receive as many as 75 million warrants with a strike price of $45.”
Spain loses AAA status, stands firm on austerity [Reuters]
“Spain lost its final top-line debt rating on Thursday as the government sought backing from lawmakers for a budget it hopes will be austere enough to convince markets it can slash the deficit at a time of economic weakness.
Moody’s become the third and last rating agency to cut Spain out of the highest AAA category which has helped it finance its debt relatively cheaply. The one-notch cut had been expected and the agency said it hoped not to have to cut again soon, bolstering Spanish debt markets.
But the agency also said a poor growth outlook meant Madrid would have to take further steps to meet its deficit targets in years to come. The Bank of Spain said a sluggish recovery would slow further in the third quarter.”
IASB head knows all about cross-channel frictions [FT]
“In a decade spent overseeing international accounting standards, Sir David Tweedie has become an amateur student of French psychology.
The Scot has locked horns with France several times as head of the International Accounting Standards Board, the body that sets the International Financial Reporting Standards rules followed in the European Union and other countries.
His fascination for his adversary is such that he recently thrust into my hands an academic paper entitled “France and the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Model: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives”. The article explores the hostility often felt in France towards the British and American way of doing business.”
McDonald’s May Drop Health Plan [WSJ]
“While many restaurants don’t offer health coverage, McDonald’s provides mini-med plans for workers at 10,500 U.S. locations, most of them franchised. A single worker can pay $14 a week for a plan that caps annual benefits at $2,000, or about $32 a week to get coverage up to $10,000 a year.
Last week, a senior McDonald’s official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain’s insurer won’t meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.”
Wal-Mart picks successor to longtime CFO [Reuters]
“Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) named Charles Holley to succeed Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe, who will retire on November 30.
The world’s biggest retailer said on Wednesday that Schoewe, 57, will stay at Wal-Mart until January 31 to help with the transition.
Holley, 54, joined Wal-Mart in 1994 and is treasurer and executive vice president of finance.
Those credentials should make him a capable CFO, said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, though Wall Street could view the transition negatively since it adds uncertainty.”
All We Are Saying Is Give Dick Fuld a Chance [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
Names being floated to replace Larry Summers as the National Economic Council include Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. Jonathan Weil sees where Obama is going with this:
“There’s much we can learn about the kind of person the president is looking for by studying these two contenders’ credentials. In addition to CEO chops, it seems Obama is seeking someone who also has served on the board of directors of at least one company that either had a massive accounting scandal, blew up so spectacularly that it threatened to take down the global financial system, or both.”
…and doesn’t think he’s aiming high enough. He has some of his own suggestions.
Sharpton faced with fresh tax woe [Tax Watchdog]
The Rev. owes around $538k to the IRS for 2009. His lawyer is a tad confused by the whole thing and says everything will paid up by Oct. 15th.
First of all, the charge is an estimate of future costs and will have no immediate impact on cash flow. And the estimate is unusually large because the accounting rules require costs that would otherwise be reported in the future to be reported now, simply because they are the result of a change in tax treatment.
As my former colleague Marie Leone reports at CFO.com, such “true-ups” over differences in tax and book accounting practices are just that. The real cost will be spread out over many quarters.
More importantly, the hit is the result of a loss of a major taxpayer subsidy. Maybe it made sense before to provide that. But given all the concern about the federal deficit, it seems to me that asking shareholders to bear a bit more of the burden for retiree drug benefits is hardly unfair.
And in the greater scheme of things, the hit may be so small as to have little impact on companies’ valuations, as a Credit Suisse analyst pointed out the other day. General Electric didn’t even break out its estimate for that reason, calling the cost “immaterial.”
The question is whether companies will stop paying for the benefits because of the cost, and that’s unlikely unless they’re willing to compensate for the loss with higher wages, as economist Dean Baker reiterated to me in an email late last week.
“The standard economist view is that the cost of health care comes overwhelmingly out of wages,” Baker wrote. “If they have to pay more in taxes, then it will mostly come out of workers’ pay and have very little impact on their costs and ability to compete.”
If on the other hand, a decline in healthcare costs leads to higher wages, that would mean a stronger economy, so I don’t see how either taxpayers or shareholders will lose here in the long run.
Yes, that’s a big if, but as I’ve said before, the new healthcare law is the biggest effort to rein in costs undertaken to date. Of course more must be done, but the law will provide a big impetus to those efforts.
Hopefully, all this will become clearer as a result of the hearings Rep. Henry Waxman plans to hold next week on this issue, but I’m not holding my breath.