Updating developments in a couple of stories we’ve been talking about this week:
–Trump attacks another carmaker. Having tweet-flamed General Motors on Wednesday for importing Mexican-made Cruzes, and after lambasting Ford for months on similar grounds, Trump yesterday turned his 140-character artillery on Toyota. The company is expanding production of Corollas and Tacoma pick-up trucks in Mexico for import into the U.S. – to which Trump thundered, “NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax,” echoing his message to GM.
Such outbursts make for good theater but pose many problems. After issuing an explicit threat, Trump must deliver or lose all credibility. Yet House Speaker Paul Ryan is adamantly opposed to any new tariffs, let alone Trump’s threatened 35% levy on Mexican imports. Also: Toyota exports about 160,000 cars annually from its U.S. plants, but a trade war could shrink that number substantially and cost U.S. jobs. And those Corollas that Toyota plans to make in Mexico are currently made in Canada. Does Trump intend to impose a heavy tariff on Canadian imports? If so, he doesn’t seem to have mentioned it, but if not, why not?
For now, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Honda, Nissan, and Volkswagen – all of which have factories in Mexico – are presumably braced for impact.
-Sears gets more desperate by the day. The company is now officially burning the furniture to stay warm. It announced yesterday that it’s selling its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Investors consider Craftsman one of Sears’s three crown jewels, the others being its Kenmore appliance brand and DieHard auto battery brand. How important is Craftsman to Sears? The deal calls for payments by Stanley Black & Decker of about $900 million plus royalties for 15 years, amounting to a deal value that Sears believes could easily top $1 billion. For Sears, that’s a huge number: At the close of trading Wednesday, before the deal was announced, Sears’s market cap was $1.1 billion.
So does Craftsman actually account for virtually all of Sears’s value? Apparently not; the stock price barely budged on Thursday in response to the announcement. Investors probably figured the deal’s present value is well below $1 billion, and they probably had a Craftsman sale priced into the stock already. So maybe instead of accounting for nearly all of Sears’s value, Craftsman accounts for only a half or a third. Still – selling it is a desperate move, one of several in recent days. This week the company announced it would close an additional 104 stores, and last week it announced it had arranged to borrow up to $500 million from CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund.
For the historically minded, it was almost exactly 26 years ago that Sears ceded the title of America’s biggest retailer to Walmart.
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What We’re Reading Today
Verizon unsure about Yahoo deal
Marni Walden, Verizon’s president of product innovation and new businesses, said she can’t say for sure that the deal will go through but added that it still makes sense. Later in the day, Verizon’s AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said the $4.8-billion acquisition would likely go through. Hacking incidents at Yahoo have raised questions about whether Verizon will seek better terms or even abandon the deal. Reuters
Frontier Airlines prepares for IPO
The budget airline wants to raise $500 million in the initial public offering, which would value it at $2 billion. Barry Biffle‘s company has hired Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and Evercore to help with the deal. Fortune
NCAA monitoring Texas transgender ‘bathroom bill’
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pushing a bill similar to one approved in North Carolina, which would require transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the sex recorded on their birth certificate. Sports organizations including the NCAA and NBA have cancelled events in North Carolina in response to its law. The Texas bill specifies that a private entity would not be subject to the law when leasing or contracting a building in the state. Patrick says passing the law is a “top priority.” USA Today
Samsung weathers Galaxy Note 7 recall
Despite the recall of the combustible phone, which cost Oh-Hyun Kwon‘s company over $6 billion, it posted its best operating profit in three years, up 50% in the latest quarter. Demand from China for Samsung chips was a major factor. Bloomberg
Building Better Leaders
Don’t get caught in your own fake news trap
Many business leaders tell themselves a story about their company or situation that just isn’t true. Spinning fake stories can yield disastrous results because real problems don’t get confronted. SmartBrief
Fast-growing small businesses…
…often have a culture of caring for employees. In a study by Great Place to Work, agreement by employees that “People care about each other” was the top indicator of above average revenue growth. Fortune
Embracing long-term thinking
As more companies concern themselves with short-term profits, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Pfizer CEO Ian Read, Wendy’s CEO Janet Hill, and others have signed onto the American Prosperity Project. The goal: to find ways governments can encourage businesses to think long-term. The Atlantic
Toyota fires back at Trump
In his latest attack on an automaker, President-elect Donald Trump said Toyota would need to pay a “big border tax” if it continues with plans to build a plant in Mexico to make cars for the U.S. In response, Akio Toyoda‘s company said it has invested $21.9 billion in the U.S. and is part of the “cultural fabric.” NBC News
Trump tells ambassadors to quit
Trump‘s transition team has asked all ambassadors appointed by President Obama to resign by Inauguration Day. It’s a harsher tone than most new administrations take with ambassadors, many of whom have children in local schools. The move could leave the U.S. without Senate-confirmed ambassadors in key countries such as Germany and Britain for months. Fortune
FBI director to brief Trump on hacking today
Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will explain their findings on the Russian hacks to Trump, who has been skeptical and dismissive of them. Yesterday Clapper and other intelligence officials defended their findings before a Senate committee. WSJ
Up or Out
Former Salesforce executive Tod Nielsen has become CEO of FinancialForce. Fortune
Fortune Reads and Videos
Rex Tillerson’s deal with ExxonMobil will defer…
…$71 million in taxes. He’s getting $180 million but giving up his restricted stock. Fortune
Japanese life insurance company will fire over 30 of its staff…
…and replace them with artificial intelligence. Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance will use IBM’s Watson Explorer to handle the tasks of calculating policy payouts; it expects the technology to be 30% more productive. Fortune
Americans split on Obamacare repeal
A survey finds that 47% want to keep it and 49% want repeal. A study finds getting rid of it will cost nearly 3 million jobs. Fortune
New health guidelines…
…suggest that exposing young children to peanuts may prevent allergies to them. Fortune
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul turns 54 tomorrow. Biography
South Dakota Senator John Thune turns 56 on Saturday. Biography