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Recession May Be Blowing in the Wind

July 03, 1988|John Crudele | JOHN CRUDELE is a financial columnist with New York magazine

Walls, of course, won't say whom Plessey is talking to. But he will say that any acquisition must be compatible with the company's existing business, probably won't be multibillion-dollar in size, is unlikely to be hostile and won't be of any company involved in major parts of supersecret defense projects.

And one more thing: Walls says Plessey is also looking to get into a new core business in the next six to 12 months--also probably through an acquisition. "One area we thought about was the data-processing, software systems sector," he says.

When Long Island recently took the bold step of banning the use of polystyrene containers, Wall Street yawned. But the issue of what to do with these foam packages once their hamburgers are devoured could be a sleeper in the '90s.

Long Island's move is not likely to have a big impact anytime soon on Dow Chemical Co., the largest manufacturer of the foam containers, which give off toxic gases when burned. (Leonard Bogner, a chemical analyst at Prudential-Bache Securities, says it could cost the company a penny a share of its earnings.)

But Dow and other chemical companies could be hurt if other municipalities follow Long Island's lead. And that could be happening.

Suffolk County (Long Island) legislator Steven Englelbright, who introduced the bill banning the containers, says he's received about 30 phone calls from other cities considering similar legislation. "The natural constraints or limits of the environment are felt earlier on an island. What we have happening here is a preview for other parts of the nation," he predicts.

Some Wall Street subscribers to the Dow Jones News Service are angry. On June 23 at 11:47 a.m., the news agency ran a story on its new and much more expensive Professional Investor Report debunking a rumor about the possible acquisition of Hershey Foods Corp. Hershey's stock price dropped sharply. But readers of the regular Dow Jones service didn't get the information until 14 minutes later . . .

Wall Street sources say a management group from Tenneco's refinery operations is considering a leveraged buyout that the sources say has little chance of success . . . Prudential-Bache chief economist Edward Yardeni says he wouldn't be surprised if the Dow Jones industrial average was back over the 2,700 level by early next year . . . General Cinema Corp. could soon restructure, says Joseph Frazzano, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. He's betting it will sell its 19% stake in Cadbury Schweppes and will eventually go after the 40% of retailer Neiman-Marcus that it doesn't already own . . .

Jeffrey L. Berenson, the mergers and acquisitions whiz at Merrill Lynch, says activity is very strong in the business. How many deals is he working on? "More than I can count," Berenson says . . . The stock market rose during each of Billy Martin's four previous exiles from the New York Yankees--2% in 1978-79, 29% in 1979-83, 18% in 1983-85 and 36% in 1985-87, says First Albany Corp.

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