Why Investing In “Sure Thing” Buyouts Is Risky

Usually when one company offers to buy another company, it offers a premium on the current stock price and the stock price jumps up pretty close to the offered price. The difference in the current price and the buyout price, that “pretty close” number, includes a variety of factors. Those factors include the risk that the deal won’t be approved by regulators or shareholders, the time value of money (a deal that will close tomorrow has less of a discount versus a deal to close in a year), or a whole host of other factors. The shareholders that held the stock before wind of this pending offer are generally happy since their shares will appreciate more than they expected. Some investors consider buying the stock because there still is a little bit of difference between the current share price and the offered price. It seems like a sure thing right? Wrong.

When Bank of America offered to buy Countrywide Financial, it offered absolutely no premium. It offered $7.16 a share on January 11th. Shares of Countrywide are only trading at $4.27 right now… why not snap up shares of CFC at $4.27 and pick up what appears to be a nice healthy premium for your money? You might not want to do that because Countrywide is going to be investigated by the FBI. Woah! That wasn’t in the list of “factors” I listed above and that’s because it’s not something you typically associate with a buy out! If the FBI finds something bad, Bank of America can still back out.

As Ron Popeil would say, but wait there’s more… let’s say you heard about the Microsoft offer of cash and stock for Yahoo, pricing each share at around $31. Let’s say you decided to snatch up a few shares of Yahoo on the buy-out offer because you wanted to make a few bucks and because you thought the buy-out made sense. Then Yahoo tried to find additional suitors to increase the sale price only to find out no one else was truly interested. In the interim, Yahoo and Microsoft stock prices fell so the original offer wasn’t as high, a scenario not mentioned in the list. The underlying offer, since it was pegged to an asset whose value changed, changed as time passed!

So, if you hear of a buy-out and are considering to snatch up some “sure thing” money, think twice. There are a lot of factors and scenarios out there that you may not be taking into account. The market has figured it out and that’s why there’s a difference in the first place. 🙂


My Credit Bureau Feature Wishlist

Look! It’s a new credit scoring system for the credit bureaus! Isn’t that great!? It is, except it doesn’t address any of the problems I see with the credit reporting industry. In my mind I have a set of features I think all the credit bureaus should institute if they want to clean things up and make life easier for everyone. As great as that sounds in principle, the problem is that consumers aren’t the primary customers of credit bureaus; banks, credit cards, and other lenders are. All the features I’m about to list are ultimately great for both parties but I think the bureaus are too short sighted to realize this, but I’ll scream into the abyss and ask for these things. Maybe Congress can do something useful and force them offer these. (some of these features may or may not be already available, I haven’t checked, so let me know it’s already available!)

Easily Freezing and Unfreezing Your Account

This is one feature that companies offer nowadays and some states require it, but ultimately it’s very difficult to do. The bureaus should offer online account access that lets you freeze and unfreeze your account with the click of a button. You don’t want credit, tell them to freeze your account and not to let any requests through. If you want credit, log in, unfreeze it, apply for credit, when you’re granted it, freeze your account again. Yes, I understand that that credit bureaus want you to pay for this service but when they’re giving away your information for a fee, it’s not unfair for them to offer this simple service to you.

Email Notification of Inquiries

At a minimum, set up a service in which credit history requests trigger an email that gets sent to an email account of your choosing. Again, I realize that this has costs associated with it but roll that into the cost of a credit inquiry in the first place. It can’t possibly be all that expensive, per inquiry, to set up a system in which an email can be sent out.

Option To Accept or Deny Inquiries

Now, let’s say you opted to keep your account unfrozen, you get email notifications, what if you could accept or deny inquiries? You could deny all those unsolicited credit requests but keep all the legitimate ones, hopefully you can keep them straight in your head.

Reject Non-Perfect Inquiries

When I reviewed my credit recently, I had an incorrect address and two social security numbers listed on my account. I thought to myself – “how could I possibly have two social security numbers!?” When I asked the bureau, they said that sometimes that happens and that errors often result in inaccuracies in one’s history. The social security number was close but one number was wrong, isn’t that grounds to deny a request? Apparently not! Apparently, according to the CSR, it happens all the time. Well, I think it shouldn’t happen all the time and that it should happen, um, never.

If Nothing Else, How About A Password

So you apply for a credit card, enter in your credit bureau password. If nothing else, this is the easiest way to ensure that the request legitimately originated from you in the first place. This seems so simple to me that it should’ve already been implemented.

How This Helps Banks, Lenders, Credit Card Companies

Financial institutions shouldn’t be trying to deluge every single person in the world with credit card offers, they should be deluging those people who want to be deluged. It’s called targeted advertising, it’s why beer commercials are shown during football games, it’s why jewelry commercials are shown during the holidays and Valentine’s Day, and it’s why you see clothing and fragrance ads in men’s and women’s magazines. You might get a few errant signups by shotgunning the masses but it’s far more effective to send offers to those who are interested.

Lenders may complain that this will slow the credit process down (and these will), but if you’ve been reading the news, don’t you think it the market could’ve used some slowing down? Credit was flowing too fast for too long and now the likes of Citi, HSBC, Bank of America, Countrywide, and company are feeling the pinch. Slowing down isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re the one waiting to be bailed out. How is this related? Sometimes what you expect to be bad, in this case a slowdown in the credit approval process, might actually be good.

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