Archive for February, 2010

Warren Buffett is now in your portfolio

For years, you may have eyed buying into billionaire Warren Buffett’s company, only to resist because of the steep price. Now that’s all changed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that millions of Americans will for the first time own a piece of Buffett, starting today.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose multi-thousand-dollar share price made it a thinly traded luxury of wealthy investors, is going mainstream as it joins the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the WSJ writes.

More than $1 trillion of investor money directly tracks the index. The result is a scramble for Berkshire shares by index funds that, by one estimate, will reach $14 billion of buying, WSJ reports.

Small-time investors, meanwhile, will finally be getting a piece of Buffett just as uncertainty builds about the future of his $178 billion conglomerate, WSJ says.

The 79-year-old Mr. Buffett is entering the twilight of his career, and little is known about his succession plans.

Yet small investors, the WSJ …

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Power Breakfast: Commercial real estate woes, weather flight cuts, layoffs, MARTA, UPS, soda tax

The commercial real estate mess is just getting ramped up, as high unemployment continues to clobber demand for space.

AJC staffer Gertha Coffee reports that the industry in metro Atlanta is likely to remain troubled for at least three more years, economists and real estate experts said Thursday during Databank Atlanta’s 2010 Real Estate Symposium.

“The recession is over, but it doesn’t feel that way,” said Georgia economist Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Mercer University.

Real estate is lagging the economic recovery as record vacancy rates and a drop in rental rates continue, Coffee reports. Significant job recovery is needed to reignite demand, Tutterow said.

“We need to understand that it will be way into 2013 and possibly 2014 before employment gets back to where it was on the national level before 2008 and 2009,” he said.

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What else should be done with jobs bill?

There’s only one problem with the jobs bill now circulating in Washington — it won’t create many jobs, Associated Press is reporting.

Even the Obama administration acknowledges the legislation’s centerpiece — a tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers — would work only on the margins, AP writes.

Tax experts and business leaders said companies are unlikely to hire workers just to receive a tax break. Before businesses start hiring, they need increased demand for their products, more work for their employees and more revenue to pay those workers.

That’s exactly right. So what else should be done? How can we get things moving more quickly? Or does the ballooning deficit prevent bold action?

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Power Breakfast: Flood of job applications, Toyota recall, Coke, Beltline, Citi, Greece

It’s yet another sign of the very tough job market.

In the past two weeks, a luxury Midtown hotel has received between 8,000 and 10,000 applications to fill 250 jobs, AJC staffer Mashaun Simon reports. Loews Atlanta is scheduled for an April 1 grand opening.

“It is not unusual to have 5,000 or so applications,” Dale McDaniel, hotel general manager, told Simon. “But it is a sign of the times. A lot of people have been laid-off in the business.”

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit industries in the economic slump, McDaniel said.

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Are Coke and Pepsi going far enough?

The soft drink industry announced changes to labeling to make calorie information more obvious, getting in line with the First Lady’s call for businesses to help tackle childhood obesity, AJC staffer Jeremiah McWilliams reports.

Starting this summer, calories on a Coke, Pepsi or other soft drink will be more prominently marked on the front of all packages, vending machines and fountain machines, said the American Beverage Association.

Also, total calorie counts for the entire drink will be displayed on the labels, McWilliams reports.

But some critics remain unimpressed.

For example, Margo G. Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said Congress should update the “disco-era national standards for school vending machines and get junk food and all sugary beverages out of schools once and for all.”

What do you think? Did Coke and Pepsi go far enough? Will it help stem the tide of childhood obesity?

What else should be done?

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Power Breakfast: State revenues fall again, Honda recall, Delta, soft drink labels, Spectrum, Toyota

State revenues keep getting hammered in this economy.

Georgia saw its revenues fall by another 8.7 percent in January, the 14th consecutive month of decline, AJC staffer Aaron Gould Sheinin reports.

Overall, the fiscal year that begin July 1 has seen the state collect 12.9 percent less in taxes and other revenues than the comparable 7-month period a year ago, Sheinin writes. That’s a difference of more than $1.28 billion.

Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee are expected to adopt an amended 2010 budget that cuts $1.2 billion from the version approved by the Legislature last year. The amended budget was built around a revenue estimate from Gov. Sonny Perdue that is now obsolete, given the continued drop of tax collections in January, Sheinin reports.

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How much did Delta lose by not landing JAL?

There was a time, just a few years ago, when Delta was known as a powerhouse over the Atlantic — but not so much over that other big body of water.

But with the acquisition of Northwest, Delta became a much more powerful carrier to be reckoned with over the Pacific, as well.

Now comes word, however, that its bid to hook up with Japan Airlines failed, with bankrupt JAL staying in an alliance with American.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation called Tuesday’s news a “massive win” for Gerard Arpey, CEO of American’s parent company AMR Corp, Associated Press reported.

“American stood to lose more than Delta, which already has a significant presence at Narita Airport,” the Sydney-based aviation research group said in a report.

It expects Delta to strengthen its presence in Tokyo on its own and expand in other Asian markets through its ties with SkyTeam members Korean Air and China Southern Airlines, AP wrote.

Still, Delta fought hard to try to win JAL.

So, do you think Delta lost …

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Selling the city without a slogan

William Pate has decided to move beyond a question that has gone without a good answer for decades: How should Atlanta brand itself?

William Pate

William Pate

As CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pate knows that despite several attempts, no marketing campaign for the city has captured the imagination for many years. The last attempt, “Every day is an opening day,” may have been DOA. (For the record, former Mayor William Hartsfield popularized the phrase, “the city too busy to hate,” which was not a marketing campaign.)

So Pate, who has been in the marketing game for 27 years, has turned a traditional approach on its head. Instead of figuring out the overarching theme or slogan first, he’s leaving that for last as he tries to generate tourism dollars in a rough economy. One stat: Visitation for the $11 billion hospitality industry was 35.4 million in 2008 – down from 38 million in 2006, the latest figures show.

To try to turn that around, Pate, 49, has been focusing on two …

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Power Breakfast: JAL rejects Delta,Toyota recall, UPS pilots, foreclosures, DeKalb schools, Emory, health care

Delta lost its bid today to form an alliance with Japan Airlines.

The Associated Press is reporting that JAL, wooed for months by Delta with promises of cash and a broad global network, spurned the Atlanta-based carrier and opted to keep its alliance with American Airlines.

The Japanese carrier said in a statement Tuesday it will strengthen its partnership with American and the two airlines will jointly ask the U.S. and Japanese governments for antitrust immunity on trans-Pacific routes, AP reports.

The decision brings to an end a fierce tug-of-war over Japan’s ailing flagship carrier, which is restructuring under bankruptcy but offers the U.S. airlines access to lucrative Asian routes.

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Power Breakfast: Economic forecasts all over the map, Atlanta foreclosures jump, Toyota, Obama’s health summit

Economists can be all the over the place when predicting the future — a fact that AJC staffer Michael Kanell proves once again in reporting on four forecasts for 2010.

Predictions about the unemployment rate are spread between 9.5 percent and 10.5 percent — a wide gap when you’re talking about jobs.

And the Dow Jones industrial average could fall 9 percent or rise 12.1 percent, depending on which forecast you subscribe to.

Kanell pointed to Yogi Berra, who said predictions are hard — especially about the future.

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