November 28, 2020

Bucks Blog: Buying a House When Inventory Is Tight

A home for sale in Washington, D.C.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A home for sale in Washington, D.C.

As the housing market continues its recovery, prospective home buyers in some areas may have found, much to their dismay, that the inventory of houses for sale is somewhat limited, and sellers are receiving multiple offers.

A recent analysis by the real estate site Zillow, for instance, found that while some improvement has occurred, the inventory of homes for sale nationally in April was down about 14 percent from the same time last year.

The National Association of Realtors, meanwhile, also reported a decrease in inventory in many markets compared with a year ago. Some markets saw drops of 20 percent or more, indicating “near record lows” of available homes.

Specifics vary by market, of course, and there are also some signs that the lack of inventory is easing this spring, as home values have risen, Zillow found. Rising values bring more sellers off the sidelines, putting more homes on the market. Many owners have been waiting to sell because their homes are still “underwater,” or worth less than their mortgage.

Mark Cenci, broker with ERA Martin Associates in Chillicothe, Ohio, said buyers need to be aware that the market is changing. Sometimes home shoppers are confused, he said, because there appear to be a lot of houses listed for sale, but many are actually under contract.

“They think there’s plenty of  houses, and that they can find what they want and get a great price,” he said. But that’s not necessarily the case.

So what should a home shopper do, in a market where inventories are tight, and there may be competition for some homes?

Mr. Cenci recommended that if you are eager to buy and have found a home you really want, you make your offer as strong as possible — even if that means going a bit above the asking price. If you have time to shop around, you can be a bit more aggressive — that is, lower — in your offer. But, “If they need to move and they find house they love, they shouldn’t be afraid to make a good offer,” he said.

Another way to show a buyer that you are serious, and to set your offer apart from other buyers’, is to increase the amount of earnest money you put up with your offer.  The money goes toward your down payment if your offer is accepted, and is returned to you if the seller declines your offer. (Of course, if your offer is accepted and you back out, you lose your earnest money. So again, it makes sense to up the ante only if you’re confident that you want the house.)

If you think there’s a chance you won’t go through with the purchase, he said, save everyone a lot of time and “don’t make the offer.”

It also makes sense to consider the type of mortgage you will use, according to ERA. While some buyers are attracted to F.H.A. loans because they typically require lower down payments, a conventional mortgage may be more attractive to a seller. That’s because the requirements for the condition of the property are often tougher for F.H.A. loans, so some sellers may be wary of being asked to make repairs before the sale can proceed. If you can swing a higher down payment, a conventional mortgage may help your offer.

In general, limiting the number of contingencies in your offer — whether they are related to financing, inspections or other conditions — will strengthen your offer, he said.

Are you in the market for a home? Have you had difficulty finding a house, or encountered competition for your chosen property?

 

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/buying-a-house-when-inventory-is-tight/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Univision and Disney Give Details of Fusion, a Channel for Latinos

Univision’s Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas interviewed President Obama in Coral Gables, Fla., during the campaign.Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Univision’s Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas interviewed President Obama in Coral Gables, Fla., during the campaign.

A new 24-hour news and entertainment channel has a name, Fusion. It also has powerful backers in Univision and ABC News, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, and distribution deals in at least 20 million homes. What is not known is whether Fusion has an audience.

Fusion will have its premiere late this summer, the companies announced Monday, as the first cable channel aimed to appeal specifically to English-speaking Latinos who can find news and entertainment elsewhere. Its reception will test whether second-generation Latinos want to watch television programming specifically for them.

The 50-50 jointly owned channel underscores the growing influence of a booming population over media companies, marketers and politicians. In 2010, there were 50.5 million Hispanics living in the United States, up from 35.3 million a decade ago, according to the 2010 census. That number is expected to grow by 167 percent by 2050, compared with an estimated 42 percent growth rate for the nation’s total population. Latinos voted in record number in the 2012 presidential election and helped sway the results in Barack Obama’s favor.

“The level of growth of Hispanics in the United States is huge, and that growth is not coming from immigration,” said Isaac Lee, the president of Univision News.

But creating a new 24-hour cable channel for a relatively narrow audience that already has plenty of options in both English and Spanish is a risky proposition. Studies show English-speaking Latinos watch the same types of programs as non-Hispanics.

“This audience identifies as Americans first,” said Larry Lubin, co-founder and president of Lubin Lawrence Inc., a brand consultancy that advised both companies. He also stressed that the venture needed to broaden its appeal. “The brand will be a failure if it only appeals to Latinos.”

Univision has rapidly expanded to meet growing demand, increasing in the last several years to 12 channels from three, including cable channels devoted to sports and telenovela marathons. Fusion represents its first English-language effort.

“This community is exploding from a size and influence perspective, but also from a diversity perspective,” said Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks. “And we’re going through an explosive period in our evolution.”

Univision and Disney executives first sat down to discuss a joint venture channel aimed at Latinos in March 2011. For Univision, Fusion represents a chance for the largest Spanish-language network to break out of its image as the home of imported Mexican soap operas, soccer and variety shows.

Nearly half of all Latinos in the United States speak more or an equal amount of English at home, a shift Univision has had to adapt to. “They watch English shows,” said Mr. Lubin, adding that they might watch Univision “maybe if they’re at their grandmother’s house.”

For Disney, the cable channel represents a broader corporate effort to appeal to marketers hoping to reach Latino viewers. Nielsen projects the buying power of Hispanics, estimated at $1 trillion in 2010, to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2015. In 2010, advertisers spent $4.3 billion to reach Hispanics, up 14 percent from 2009, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. Unlike NBC with MSNBC, ABC does not have a cable news channel.

Univision spearheaded the channel’s programming and hired employees for its Miami-based headquarters. Disney, which has leverage with cable and satellite providers because of ESPN, handled distributing the channel. So far deals have been struck with Cablevision, Charter, Cox Communications, ATT U-Verse and Google Fiber. A spokeswoman for ABC News said additional distribution deals were in the works and that the existing ones made Fusion available in states with the largest Hispanic populations, including Texas, California, Florida and Illinois.

Fusion will broadcast unscripted series and specials, all with a Latino slant. Mr. Lee pointed to series like National Geographic’s “Locked Up Abroad” about tourists who end up in foreign prisons, as the type of documentary series he hoped the channel would do. Extensive news coverage in collaboration with ABC News will revolve around the interests of Latinos. Coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, for instance, would focus on potential Latin American candidates to succeed him, Mr. Lee said.

The goal at ABC News is that the partnership infuses its editorial choices with a Hispanic perspective. “This will absolutely play a part in our programming choices,” said Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News.

ABC News has provided employees with free Spanish lessons. Univision’s key news anchors, Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas, made appearances during ABC News’s election coverage. Univision has installed a liaison in the ABC newsroom in New York to foster collaboration. Sharing news gathering and production resources with Univision could also help ABC News trim costs.

Univision’s influence on ABC News’s editorial choices has already been felt. After the Mexican singer Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash in December “we knew to put it on Page 1 because our friends at Univision called me and said, ‘This is going to be the most important event for millions of U.S. Hispanics. Pay attention to this,’ ” Mr. Sherwood said.

Univision’s Spanish-language programming faces competition. In August, News Corporation introduced MundoFOX, a Spanish-language broadcast channel. Under the ownership of Comcast, NBCUniversal has increased investment in Telemundo.

But the biggest competition for Fusion might not come from traditional television. The median age of Hispanics in the United States is 28, and Latinos spent 68 percent more time watching video on the Internet than non-Hispanics, according to figures from Telemundo. Enticing those viewers to watch the old-fashioned way may prove tough.

Last year, the then-unnamed Fusion began news coverage online, in time to cover the presidential election. The channel’s online presence will grow leading up to the TV inauguration. “We will treat digital as the first screen, not the second screen,” Mr. Lee said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/univision-and-abc-news-give-details-of-cable-channel-aimed-at-latinos/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Partnership Gives Web Surfers More Than Just Images

Just viewing images of celebrities like Kim Kardashian might satisfy some Web surfers, but a new partnership between Getty Images and Luminate, a company that specializes in making digital images interactive, is bringing a new experience to more inquisitive viewers.

Digital photographs from Getty are typically tagged with basic descriptors of who or what is in the photograph — small bits of information known as metadata. Luminate will take those photos and append additional metadata, including, for example, Ms. Kardashian’s Web site, Twitter feed or related articles about her. When a user hovers over an image, the information will appear on the screen.

Chas Edwards, the chief revenue officer and head of publisher development at Luminate, said adding that information to a photograph can help publishers retain readers who might otherwise leave Web sites to find more information on the subject of a photograph. Getty began using the company’s technology this month.

“If there was a story about a celebrity, wouldn’t it be nice to pivot that audience to an entertainment gallery on a related site?” Mr. Edwards said. “It keeps that reader on your experience.”

Publishers that have already started embedding related Twitter posts into images include Entertainment Tonight Online, Just Jared and Perez Hilton.

Luminate also offers Getty and other clients the ability to tailor advertising to users based on the images on a publisher’s site. The images are tagged with metadata that matches an advertiser’s product profile. A toothpaste brand, for example, may opt to display its ads around photos of people who are smiling.

Brands that have used the technology include Garnier, Samsung, Macy’s, Best Buy, Intel, McDonald’s and Gap.


Tanzina Vega writes about advertising and digital media. Follow @tanzinavega on Twitter.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/partnership-gives-web-surfers-more-than-just-images/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: The Gift of After-Hours Medical Care

Getty Images

A new study shows that people who have after-hours access to their doctor use the emergency room less.

Published online in the journal Health Affairs, the study found that one in five people who attempted after-hours contact with their primary care doctor reported it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to do so. But those who reported less difficulty contacting a doctor after hours, say on nights and weekends, had fewer emergency room visits than people who experienced more difficulty.

I can relate at least one experience in which our pediatrician’s evening hours saved us an emergency room visit, after a mishap known in our family as the Fork Incident. It was one of those times when we really needed to see a doctor, in person, past regular business hours — not just talk to an on-call advice nurse.

We had moved to a new town and into a newly renovated home, complete with polished hardwood floors. One evening, my then 5-year-old daughter was helping me set the table, and she grabbed a handful of forks from the silverware drawer. She didn’t run. But somehow, in the few steps to the table, she slipped and fell. On her face. On the forks.

When she began howling, I took one look at the blood pouring from her face and felt my knees go weak. Fearing her eyeball was punctured, I yelled for my husband, who calmly removed her to the bathroom to assess the damage.

The utensils hadn’t, thankfully, hit her eye. But the tines of at least two forks did pierce the skin just above her eyebrow, which was rapidly swelling. We thought it should be looked at by a doctor, just in case.

A call to our new pediatrician revealed that the office had extended hours on some evenings, and we were told to bring her in. The doctor looked at the rows of tiny holes above my daughter’s eye. “What kind of a fork was it?” he marveled. “It was more than one!” I blurted, feeling ridiculous. Everyone knows not to let kids get their hands on scissors or knives. But, come on — forks?

She didn’t need stitches, and we went home to put ice on her forehead. The after-hours clinic had probably spared us two hours of waiting and a $100 co-payment at the emergency room.

The study found that among people with a regular primary care doctor, 40.2 percent reported that the doctor’s practice offered extended hours. One obstacle to the wider availability of the service, the study noted, is that doctors are “insufficiently compensated for working evenings and weekends.”

The study concludes that after-hours access by phone or e-mail, too, offers the potential to reduce rates of emergency room use. I’m glad, though, that our practice offered in-person visits.

Does your doctor offer a way for you to get in touch on evenings and weekends, or to receive care after hours?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/the-gift-of-after-hours-medical-care/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Casting Off Gloom, Deal Makers Are in a Frenzy of Activity

Worldwide volume in mergers and acquisitions is $1.8 trillion year to date, a 31 percent rise over last year at this time. Companies in deals announced on Monday include, clockwise from top left, Cargill, Bank of America, Time Warner Cable and Transocean.Clockwise starting upper left: Spencer Tirey/Getty Images, Chris Keane, via Bloomberg, Kevork Djansezian, via Getty Images and Derick E. Hingle, via Bloomberg NewsWorldwide volume in mergers and acquisitions is $1.8 trillion year to date, a 31 percent rise over last year at this time. Companies in deals announced on Monday include, clockwise from top left, Cargill, Bank of America, Time Warner Cable and Transocean.

Turmoil in the stock market. A downgrade of the United States credit rating. The economic crisis in Europe.

Such a vicious cocktail of bad news would normally cause Wall Street’s deal machine to grind to a halt. But Monday had a spate of multibillion-dollar mergers and acquisitions, surprising investors, who had expected deal activity to slow in the grim environment.

Leading the M.A. charge was Google, which said it was buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The search company, which has made a business out of bucking conventional wisdom, does not seem deterred by the market tumult or the threat of a antitrust inquiry by the United States government.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola, by far its largest deal, would use some of the nearly $40 billion in cash on its balance sheet. Corporations, especially the leading technology companies, are sitting on record amounts of cash, a fact that deal makers have been hoping would spawn mergers and acquisitions even in difficult markets. Apple has about $76 billion in cash; Microsoft has $53 billion.

“Even intense market volatility won’t get in the way of strategic deals,” said Scott A. Barshay, a corporate partner at the law firm Cravath, Swaine Moore. “Well-capitalized companies are focused on the years ahead, not the last week of trading.”

Private equity has remained another reliable driver of deal activity. After struggling through the financial crisis, the world’s largest buyout firms are now on firmer footing and have been looking to sell their holdings to return cash to their investors. The private equity world had two large exits on Monday: Time Warner Cable bought Insight Communications, which is owned by the Carlyle Group and others, for $3 billion, and the agriculture giant Cargill said it would pay about $2 billion for Provimi, an animal feed producer owned by the European buyout shop Permira.

With Monday’s flurry of transactions — which also included a big oil-drilling deal and a large credit card disposition by Bank of America — worldwide M. A. volume totals $1.8 trillion year to date, a 31 percent increase over last year at this time, according to Thomson Reuters. And Monday was the biggest “Merger Monday” in the United States since April 4, Thomson Reuters says.

Cargill to Buy Feed Company

Cargill, the American agricultural giant, said Monday that it planned to buy a Dutch animal nutrition company, Provimi, for $2.1 billion from the private equity firm Permira.

One of the largest privately held companies in the world, Cargill said it made a binding offer for Provimi, which specializes in nutrition and supplements for farm animals, for 1.5 billion euros. The deal will help Cargill add vitamin mixtures and additives to its animal nutrition business and expand in Latin America, Russia and Asia, where Provimi operates.

The deal comes as food prices increase and demand for meat from developing economies rises. Provimi, based in Rotterdam, employs about 7,000 people and operates in 26 countries. It had sales of 1.6 billion euros in 2010 and earnings of 86 million euros in the first half of this year.

Cargill’s vice chairman, Paul Conway, said the acquisition was “a significant move for Cargill into the higher value added segments in the animal nutrition market. Provimi has world-class expertise, knowledge and strong technical know-how, an area that we believe is key to the future of the industry.”

JULIA WERDIGIER

Bank of America Sheds a Unit

Bank of America took steps on Monday to exit the international credit card business, agreeing to sell its $8.6 billion Canadian card venture to the TD Bank Group for an undisclosed amount and putting its remaining European card portfolio on the block.

With the announcements, Bank of America continued the push to overhaul its credit card business as the bank reels from hefty losses in its troubled mortgage division. While dumping the international card business, Bank of America has largely retained its card loans in the United States, among other core assets. The bank said it hoped the deals would shore up its capital ratios.

“Our strategy is clear: We have been transforming the company to deliver the franchise to our core customer groups, and building a fortress balance sheet behind that,” Brian T. Moynihan, the chief executive, said in a statement. “While the credit card remains a fundamental core product for our U.S. customers, an international consumer card business under another brand is not consistent with that strategy.”

Since Mr. Moynihan took over in early 2010, the bank has sold some 20 businesses for roughly $30 billion. One big deal was announced in May, as the bank shed its remaining stake in BlackRock for $2.5 billion.

The moves come as Bank of America, the nation’s biggest bank by assets, struggles to regain its footing in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The beleaguered bank announced an $8.8 billion second-quarter loss after it agreed to settle huge legal claims surrounding its ill-fated acquisition of the subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

The bank’s remaining European card portfolios are even bigger assets. The bank manages a combined $19 billion in credit card loans in Britain and Ireland, which it now plans to sell. That business employs about 4,000 people.

BEN PROTESS

Offshore Driller Builds Its Fleet

Transocean, one of the world’s largest offshore drilling contractors, said on Monday that it had bid $1.43 billion for Aker Drilling of Norway to expand its fleet by adding rigs and ships.

Transocean, which owned the rig lost in the oil spill disaster last year in the Gulf of Mexico, said it agreed to pay 26.5 Norwegian kroner ($4.80) in cash for each Aker share. The offer price is 62 percent higher than Aker’s average share price over 30 days before the offer, Transocean said in a statement. Transocean will also assume $800 million of Aker’s debt.

With the acquisition, Transocean will gain two ultra-deepwater rigs that are on long-term contracts in Norway to Statoil and Det Norske. It will also get two drill ships being built at a shipyard in South Korea. Transocean will have to pay $900 million for the ships upon delivery.

“Aker Drilling is an excellent strategic fit for Transocean,” the company president and chief executive, Steven L. Newman, said in a statement. “It allows us to enhance our position in Norway where we have enjoyed a long-term presence and excellent customer relationships.”

The board of Aker Drilling unanimously recommended the bid to its shareholders, Transocean said. Aker Drilling’s shareholders are expected to vote on the offer later this month.

JULIA WERDIGIER

Cable Operator Expands Reach

Time Warner Cable announced on Monday that it had agreed to buy Insight Communications, a large Midwestern cable television operator, for about $3 billion in cash.

“We believe in our business and its long-term prospects and have long thought that Insight’s well-run, technologically advanced systems would fit well with our Midwest operations,” Glenn Britt, chief executive of Time Warner Cable, said in a statement.

Insight is owned by the Carlyle Group and other private equity firms, including MidOcean Partners and Crestview Partners.

BRIAN STELTER

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=36fed078fee3667add909b36254f681b

DealBook: Baidu to Invest $306 Million in Travel Search Site

Baidu's headquarters in Beijing.Simon Lim/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Baidu’s headquarters in Beijing.

7:06 p.m. | Updated

SHANGHAI — The Chinese search engine giant Baidu.com said on Friday that it would invest $306 million in Qunar.com, an online travel site planning an initial public offering.

The deal represents one of the largest investments ever made by Baidu, which has faced competition from social networking and online commerce sites.

Since Google moved its operations to Hong Kong last year, Baidu has become even more dominant as a search engine. But the company is also moving aggressively to diversify its online offerings to compete with Tencent, Sina, Alibaba and other big Chinese Internet companies.

In recent years, Baidu has formed a joint venture with the Japanese online shopping mall site, Rakuten, invested in a Hulu-like video site and sought to team up with mobile phone makers that use the Android operating system in the hope of having Baidu used in mobile search.

Qunar, which was co-founded by an American, Fritz Demopoulos, along with the Chinese-born Zhuang Chenchao and Douglas Khoo of Malaysia, is one of China’s fastest growing online travel sites. It provides searches on flights, hotels and group buying.

Travel inside of China has exploded with the country’s wealth and the growth of airports and high-speed rail. Ctrip.com, which is listed on the Nasdaq, is China’s best-known travel site and has a market value of about $23 billion.

Qunar was founded in 2005 and received early financing from the Silicon Valley venture firms Mayfield and GSR Ventures; it has also received financing from Tenaya Capital and GGV Capital.

“Baidu’s investment was a strategic investment,” said Mr. Zhuang, the co-founder of Qunar. “An I.P.O. is still part of our plan.”

Baidu closed Friday at $128.68 on Nasdaq, valuing the company at around $45 billion and making it one of the world’s richest Internet companies.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2b16aa4a746c617042a61283b70012a6

Room For Debate: Who’s Going to Pay for Greece?

Introduction

Greek debt crisisLouisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Protesters outside Parliament in Athens last week with banners depicting Prime Minister George Papandreou as an I.M.F. “employee of the year.”

Europe’s finance ministers on Monday said they would hold off in sending a new infusion of aid to Greece until July, demanding that the Greek government first agree to spending cuts and financial reforms.

Greece needs the money to stay solvent. The International Monetary Fund was asking the European Union to effectively keep the Greek government afloat if its financing plan fell short over the next year. A Greek default would be twice the size of the two largest defaults in history put together — Argentina and Russia.

What form should an I.M.F. intervention in Greece take, who stands to gain, and what lessons have been learned from Argentina and other national financial crises?

 Read the Discussion »

<!–

Topics: Argentina, Economy, Europe, Greece, International Monetary Fund

–>

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=bb9abf6bc8e8beb5b91b6f4043ac2a28

Room For Debate: Is There Any Hope for Greece?

Introduction

Greece austerity measuresLouisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images City workers in Athens protesting against austerity plans on May 18.

Global markets slipped on Monday as worries rose about the euro zone’s fiscal stability. Meanwhile, Greece’s cabinet approved another package of spending cuts and asset sales in response to demands from euro zone partners — including Spain and Italy — that it move faster on austerity measures.

Skeptics are saying that Greece, facing loans of more than 150 percent of gross domestic product, will eventually have to restructure its debt — paying back less than face value.

What’s the answer for Greece? If staying in the euro zone means living with austerity plans that could lead to years of high unemployment and recession, would leaving the euro be a sound option?

 Read the Discussion »

<!–

Topics: Economy, Europe, Greece

–>

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ba82737e90d1381b30ae172e2f9833c4

DealBook: A Shopping List for Apple’s Growing War Chest

Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Excessive,” “untenable,” simply “ridiculous” — those are some of the words analysts are using to describe Apple’s gigantic cash pile.

It’s certainly a hefty one.

In its latest earnings report on Wednesday, Apple recorded cash and cash equivalents of $65.8 billion, adding to the prior quarter by about $6 billion. The sum easily trumps Apple’s peers. Google, which boasts the second-largest cash pile, reported $36.7 billion in cash last week, less than half of Apple’s war chest.

And the Apple machine, supported by the fierce popularity of its iPhone and iPad products, shows no signs of slowing down. Revenue rose 83 percent, to $24.67 billion, in the last quarter. But as it grows, analysts say, at some point Apple will have to crack the piggy bank — and maybe go shopping.

“It’s going to become truly untenable,” said Yair Reiner, an analyst with Oppenheimer Company. “Two years ago, I would say its cash pile would be untenable at $50 billion, and now we’re at $70 billion. At some point something will need to get done.”

Shares of Apple were trading up 2.7 percent, at $351.50, on Thursday afternoon. So far this year, the stock is up 9 percent.

As long as Apple can maintain its trajectory, analysts say, it will be difficult for shareholders to complain about excess cash. But the pressure is mounting. Apple is trading at a discount to the broader Standard Poor’s 500-stock index, according to Mr. Reiner’s calculations. The average company in the S.P. trades at 13 times 2012 estimated earnings. If you subtract cash from Apple’s price, it is trading at about nine times 2012 earnings, he said.

“Now that Apple is trading at a discount to the overall market, it’s easier to argue that Apple is being penalized for holding onto its cash,” Mr. Reiner said.

If and when Apple decides to spend, it is unclear what the company might do with the money. Apple could pursue a major share buyback, issue dividends (it currently does not pay any), or it could make acquisitions. Last October, Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, said it might pursue “one or more very strategic opportunities.” But a large deal would represent a notable shift in Apple’s strategy of acquiring small companies (largely for talent or pieces of technology) in tuck-in deals.

Last year, the company only made a handful of takeovers, acquiring an iPhone application, Siri, and a small chip maker, Intrinsity. Its largest acquisition in 2010 was Quattro, a mobile ad company it purchased for close to $300 million. If Apple hopes to put a meaningful dent in its current war chest, it will have make a big purchase or embark on an uncharacteristic shopping spree.

“There is no history of Apple buying companies that have a full suite of products, and in large part, that reflects Apple’s reticence to take on the risk of integrating new companies and new cultures,” Mr. Reiner said.

If Apple does make a major acquisition in the near term, it could involve a content company, according to three analysts interviewed. As the value of Apple’s hardware products become increasingly tied to the content and applications available on those devices, the company will become more interested in content providers, they said.

One possible target is Netflix, a movie rental service that streams content to users’ personal electronic devices. The service, which is also available on Apple’s iTV device, could compliment Apple’s iTunes service, which hosts thousands of movies and videos, according to James Cordwell, an Atlantic Equities analyst.

“Because Apple needs to provide a consistent service, it needs more Internet-based services, whether it’s video, music or applications,” he said. “Netflix would be a fantastic business for them to buy, it gives them a great consumer business and a recommendation engine that would help the other parts of their business.”

According to Mr. Cordwell, any bid for Netflix would probably come at a premium and may be as high as nearly $20 billion — still a fraction of Apple’s reserves. Netflix’s current market capitalization is about $13.2 billion.

As of December of last year, about 60 percent of Apple’s cash sat in offshore accounts.

Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher Company, said a Netflix takeover was possible. But it may not be as attractive for Apple, since Netflix does not own the streaming rights for the majority of its content.

Instead, Mr. Marshall said Apple could go after the pipelines, by acquiring a company like Akamai Technologies. Akamai’s content delivery service helps businesses like Apple stream content and applications through its sprawling network of servers. “It would give them better utilization of their network technology and the flexibility to operate the networks as they see fit,” he said. Akamai’s market capitalization is $7.6 billion.

The analysts interviewed said an acquisition of Facebook remained a remote possibility. Although Mr. Jobs has expressed interest in social networks, recently launching Ping (a music-centric community), this may be one of the few takeovers that would be too difficult to swallow, even for Apple. Facebook, which recently raised $1.5 billion in a financing round led by Goldman Sachs at a $50 billion valuation, continues to trade higher on the secondary markets, with recent trades putting its valuation north of $70 billion.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=86fc353500ce3ac8f68fc93bfb9218d3

DealBook: JPMorgan Profit Rises 67%, but Bad Loans Persist

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan ChaseSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s chief.

8:18 p.m. | Updated

Even as JPMorgan Chase reported a 67 percent increase in first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, the problems in its troubled home lending unit kept piling up.

Bad mortgages and home equity loans cost the bank $1 billion in the first quarter, bringing total residential real estate losses since the financial crisis began to more than $20 billion.

To make matters worse, bank officials said they expected these high loss levels to persist, and acknowledged that new mortgage lending had stalled. Mortgage originations fell 29 percent from the fourth quarter, as higher rates deflated the refinancing boom that propped up the business for much of 2010.

Still, strong results from JPMorgan’s investment bank as well as the release of $2 billion that had been set aside earlier to cover credit card losses offset the mortgage mess and contributed to a record $5.6 billion quarterly profit.

As the first of the major banks to report their first quarter results, JPMorgan is closely watched as a bellwether for both Wall Street and the broader banking industry. Analysts suggested there was an increasing divergence in performance between Wall Street activities like trading and investment banking and more traditional retail lending. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and other big financial institutions face a similar challenge as they report earnings this month.

“There just is not enough economic strength to fuel loan growth,” David Trone, a banking analyst at JMP Securities, said. “That traditional part of banking is just very stagnant.”

Revenue fell 8 percent to $25.8 billion, underscoring the challenge banks face as they try to expand their underlying businesses amid a still-sluggish economy and new government rules that restrict lucrative sources of income like overdraft fees.

Then there is the cleanup bill for the foreclosure crisis. On Wednesday afternoon, JPMorgan’s mortgage unit, Chase Home Lending, and 13 other servicers took a major step in putting their troubles behind them when they struck a deal with federal regulators to make sweeping changes to their loan servicing operations.

Chase Home Lending plans to add 2,000 to 3,000 employees, create a separate unit to handle troubled mortgages and strengthen its internal controls. These moves forced the bank to take a one-time $1.1 billion charge in the first quarter to reflect the higher operating costs resulting from the new mortgage practices.

The company also recently announced several prominent management changes at Chase Home Lending.

“We are adding a lot of intensive manpower and talent to fix the problems of the past,” Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chairman and chief executive, said on a conference call with reporters.

The moves are aimed at addressing the problems flagged by regulators after a public uproar over foreclosure practices last fall. JPMorgan, Bank of America, GMAC, Wells Fargo and other big lenders were forced to review tens of thousands of mortgage files after revelations of paperwork mistakes and other errors. In some cases, those institutions were also forced to temporarily halt foreclosures across the country.

The settlement with federal regulators still leaves open the possibility of fines and other legal actions. But it does not end separate settlement talks with state attorneys general, who have been pressing the banks to expand their mortgage modification programs and to pay at least $20 billion in penalties.

Nor does Wednesday’s agreement with federal regulators address a flurry of lawsuits from private investors seeking to recover losses on troubled loans and securities the bank sold.

Although there has been little progress in the negotiations with either the attorneys general or investors, the bank has been setting aside money for any eventual deals. JPMorgan put aside an additional $650 million in the first quarter to cover these potential legal claims and other foreclosure-related costs, after increasing its litigation reserves by more than $6.7 billion in 2010.

The bank also added $420 million to a separate reserve to cover expected losses stemming from the repurchase of faulty loans that it had sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled housing finance companies. Previously, it had set aside more than $5.6 billion for these claims.

“I think a good global settlement will be good for everybody,” Mr. Dimon said. “Keeping this mess going on is not good for anybody.”

The number of mortgage troubles overshadowed an otherwise solid quarter for most of the bank’s other businesses. JPMorgan’s quarterly profit of $5.6 billion, or $1.28 a share, exceeded analysts’ estimates and was a sharp increase over the $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, that the company earned a year earlier.

Indeed, JPMorgan’s investment bank posted a $2.4 billion profit, down 4 percent from a year ago, when unusually strong trading results helped fuel a record profit.

Investment banking fees were up 23 percent, as JPMorgan benefited from dozens of new deals, including ATT’s $39 billion planned acquisition of T-Mobile USA. Fixed income trading revenue was up 33 percent from the prior year, while revenue from its equities group fell 8 percent on lower trading volumes.

The corporate bank, which provides loans to mid-size companies, reported earnings of $546 million, up 3 percent from the period a year earlier. Bank officials pointed to a marked improvement in the number of mid-size businesses seeking credit.

The credit card division reported a $1.3 billion profit, up 3 percent from the period a year earlier. But much of that gain was a result of the bank’s decision to release about $2 billion it had previously set aside to cover losses.


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 13, 2011

A previous version of the story had an incorrect share price.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0b8277959083ed1d1b2c29479d471f63